British Columbia

These invasive bugs have a nasty reputation that goes beyond their stink

Concern over brown marmorated stink bugs continues in parts of B.C. where the invasive insects are already established. They feed on many important B.C. crops and may be found trying to hide out in your home for the winter.

Brown marmorated stink bugs, which release a foul smell if your crush them, can also destroy crops

A brown marmorated stink bug is pictured in Surrey, B.C., on Tuesday. Experts warn the spread of the invasive insect could cause significant damage to many crops in the province, including grapes, fruit trees, and vegetables. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

They're called stink bugs, so you can be forgiven for not taking a shine to them — and now provincial officials and the Invasive Species Council of B.C. are highlighting concerns about the spread of brown marmorated stink bugs in parts of the province.

The bugs release a strong odour when crushed, or sometimes simply when handled or injured. It's described as a pungent coriander-like smell. But the real issue with this type of stink bug is the damage they can do to some of B.C.'s favourite crops.

"This brown marmorated stink bug is a bad stink bug. It will feed on grapes, it will feed on tree fruit, it will feed on vegetables, it will feed on berries," said Susanna Acheampong, an entomologist with the B.C. Ministry of Agriculture.

According to Acheampong, the bugs, which originally came to North America from Asia, began to appear in B.C. in 2015. They're now well established in Metro Vancouver, the Fraser Valley, on Vancouver Island, and in the Kelowna area.

Stink bugs trying to get inside your house

It's around this time of the year that people may find stink bugs congregating in or around their homes; Acheampong said they're looking for a warm place to shelter for the winter.

Brown marmorated stink bugs have piercing mouth parts that damage fruit and other produce as they feed. (Yonathan Uriel/Invasive Species Council of B.C.)

There are a few ways to deal with them, and destroying them is recommended by the province, along with sealing up your house so they can't enter.

"Just use paper towel to pick them up. They don't like water, so have some soapy water. You drop them in; they will die. So you can kill them," said Acheampong, who added that you can sweep them up or use a vacuum as well.

According to Gail Wallin, executive director of the Invasive Species Council of B.C., killing stink bugs that appear in your home won't do much to stop the concerning spread of the species, but it's better than putting them back outside.

"For any invasive species, it requires having an integrated pest management plan," said Wallin, who went on to say broad co-ordination would be required to try to eradicate the bugs from any area.

Stopping the spread

But Wallin said there are things people can do to help prevent the bugs from taking hold in areas where they aren't already established.

Stink bugs are known as great hitchhikers, so keeping an eye out for the bugs — which are typically about 1.5 cm long, with a shield-shaped body and long antennae with white stripes — and not giving them a free ride will help.

"Make sure you don't move these stink bugs to other parts of the province," she said.

Wallin also said sightings can be reported — both on the Invasive Species Council of B.C. website and on the provincial government's website.

Acheampong said there's no need to report the bugs if you see them around Kelowna, Metro Vancouver, the Fraser Valley or Vancouver Island, but if you spot them elsewhere in B.C. they can be reported online.


Rafferty Baker

Video journalist

Rafferty Baker is a Video journalist with CBC News, based in Vancouver, as well as a writer and producer of the CBC podcast series, Pressure Cooker. You can find his stories on CBC Radio, television, and online at

With files from Steve Venegas