What Do Stink Bugs Eat? Plus Facts on The Brown Marmorated Diet

Just what do stink bugs eat? Have you ever encountered adult stink bugs in your home or garden and wondered what these critters like to munch on? Let’s explore the diet of these fascinating insects so you can better understand their role in nature.

The brown stink bug, scientifically known as Halyomorpha halys (aka shield bug), is native to Asia but has become quite common in the United States over the years. They feed on a wide variety of veggies, plants, and fruits. 

These include apples, peaches, tomatoes, and even some ornamental plants in your garden. These insects use their proboscis, a straw-like mouthpart, to pierce the plant tissue and extract valuable nutrients. This feeding habit can cause cosmetic damage or even reduce the yield of the affected crops.

In addition to plants, specific predatory stink bugs will consume other small insects, particularly pests like caterpillars and aphids. Eating these bugs will help balance the ecosystem and protect plants from more destructive invaders.

What Do Stink Bugs Eat? Essential Diet of Stink Bugs

What Do Stink Bugs Eat

Stink bugs, or shield bugs, are known for their putrid smell when disturbed. But have you ever wondered what makes up their diet? In this section, we’ll explore the primary diet of stink bugs and go into more depth into what they consume. Learning what they eat depends on which stink bug species you refer to.

Check out these stink bug facts:

Weeds and Grass

What do stink bugs eat?

The immature stink bugs will feed on weeds and grass when they first hatch. Then, as they grow, they will advance onto some of the other plant juices we mention below.

Vegetation and Crops

What do stink bugs eat?

Stink bugs are primarily plant feeders. They have a preference for several types of vegetation and crops. You might find them feasting on plants such as:

  • Beans
  • Soybeans
  • Corn
  • Tomatoes
  • Peppers
  • Eggplants

It’s essential to keep an eye on your garden, as stink bugs can show up in large numbers and cause damage to plants with their feeding habits. They use their needle-like mouthparts to pierce the plant tissue and suck the sap, which can lead to distorted growth or even plant death.

Fruits and Berries

What do stink bugs eat?

In addition to vegetation and crops, stink bugs also enjoy a sweet treat in the form of fruits and berries. Some of their favorites are:

  • Apples
  • Peaches
  • Raspberries
  • Cherries
  • Grapes

Stink bugs can cause significant damage to fruit, as their feeding leaves behind puncture marks and blemishes. The fruit may become deformed and unmarketable, leading to potential financial losses for farmers and gardeners.


What do stink bugs eat?

While plant material makes up the bulk of a stink bug’s diet, some predatory species occasionally consume other insects. The predatory aspect is especially true for the nymph stage of their life cycle, during which they tend to be more carnivorous. Some of the insects stink bugs prey upon include:

  • Caterpillars
  • Aphids
  • Beetles

In summary, stink bugs have a varied diet that primarily consists of vegetation, crops, fruits, and berries, with the occasional consumption of other insects. As a gardener or farmer, keeping an eye on your plants for the presence of these pesky insects can help minimize damage and keep your plants healthy and thriving.

Species of Stink Bugs (Predatory)

predatory stink bugs

Stink bugs are not typically considered predatory insects; they are generally herbivorous and feed on various plants. However, some exceptions within the stink bug family (Pentatomidae) can exhibit predatory behavior. Here are a few examples:

  • Spined Soldier Bug (Podisus maculiventris): This stink bug species is partially predatory and feeds on various insects, including caterpillars, beetles, and other soft-bodied insects.

  • Two-Spotted Stink Bug (Perillus bioculatus): Two-spotted stink bugs are predaceous on various insects, particularly Colorado potato beetle larvae and other pests.

  • Green Stink Bug (Chinavia hilaris): While primarily herbivorous, green stink bugs may behave cannibalistically and eat other stink bug nymphs.

It’s important to note that even among these partially predatory stink bugs, their primary diet consists of plant matter, and predation is often opportunistic. Most stink bugs are ineffective predators compared to insects with specialized predatory adaptations.

Species of Stink Bugs (Non-Predatory)

Most stink bugs feed on plant sap, vegetable crops, fruit trees, and other herbage. Did you know that when crushed or disturbed, most stink bugs produce a foul odor?

  • Twice-Stabbed Stink Bug (Cosmopepla lintneriana): These stink bugs will feed on echinacea, wild asparagus, and mint, among other things. Learn more here.

  • Brown Marmorated Stink Bug (Halyomorpha halys): The brown marmorated stink bug is the most common. One of its common names is  ‘shield bug.’ Did you know that it’s primarily a herbivorous pest? This type of stink bug feeds on many plants, including fruit trees, vegetables, and ornamental plants. In late summer, they may begin ramping up. 

  • Southern Green Stink Bug (Nezara viridula): Southern green stink bugs are herbivorous insects that are an invasive species. They’ll feed on various crops, including soybeans, cotton, and fruits and vegetables.

  • Harlequin Bug (Murgantia histrionica): Harlequin bugs are herbivorous pests that primarily feed on plants in the cabbage family, such as cabbage, broccoli, and kale.

  • Cotton Harlequin Bug (Tectocoris diophthalmus): Like the harlequin bug, the cotton harlequin bug is a herbivore that feeds on cotton plants and can be a pest in agriculture.

  • Red-Shouldered Stink Bug (Thyanta custator): Red-shouldered stink bugs are herbivorous and primarily feed on various plants, including legumes and sunflowers. They also tend to attack hemp plants.

Stink Bugs and Human Food

You might wonder if stink bugs are interested in your food. The good news is that stink bugs primarily feed on plants, fruits, and crops. While they are considered agricultural pests, they do not typically invade or eat human food directly.

As a generalist, stink bugs feed on a wide variety of plants. Some key examples include corn, soybeans, apples, peaches, and tomatoes. They are True Bugs and use their piercing mouthparts to suck the food source out of these plants. 

In urban areas or farms, they are causing damage to the crops and fruit, which can impact the agricultural industry significantly. Did you know that stink bugs in NY are a problem, too? No matter if you live in a city like Rochester or suburbs like Long Island.

You might wonder, “What happens if stink bugs enter my pantry?” Although it’s uncommon (unless your home has a lot of entry points), stink bugs may sometimes wander into your home in search of warmth and shelter, especially during the cooler months. However, they are not attracted to human food like other pests such as ants or cockroaches. So, you can rest easy knowing that your food is relatively safe from these smelly insects.

If you come across stink bugs in your home, taking preventive measures like sealing cracks and gaps in your walls and windows is essential. Another place that can serve as entry points for these insects is crawl spaces. 

Remember, while stink bugs are not directly threatening your food, their presence can be disruptive, and their smell unpleasant. So, if you suspect a stink bug infestation, keeping your home protected against these pesky insects is always best.

Survival Without Food

You might wonder how stink bugs survive during times when food is scarce. Well, these resilient insects have developed strategies for such occasions. They are known for their ability to adapt to fluctuating food sources, which allows them to endure long periods without food.

One of the ways stink bugs survive without food is by entering a state of dormancy called diapause during the cold winter months. This suspended state of development slows their metabolic rates, conserving energy and reducing the need for sustenance. They’ll often seek shelter in warm, safe places like your home. They won’t hesitate to reside in attics, wall voids, or crawlspace.

Stink bugs are also masters of resourcefulness. In the absence of their preferred diet, which typically consists of fruits, vegetables, and ornamental plants, they can switch to alternative food sources. This unplanned menu may include other insects, seeds, or even grains. Their ability to adapt is a testament to their versatility and endurance.

Furthermore, while it’s not ideal, stink bugs can rely on their fat reserves during times of food scarcity. These stored fats can provide the energy and nutrients needed to keep them alive for extended periods without access to regular food sources.

So the next time you come across a stink bug, be aware that they can survive without food to some extent, thanks to their adaptability, resourcefulness, and fat reserves. Although they may be a nuisance, these little insects are undoubtedly tough survivors.

Preferred Plants and Agricultural Impact

You might be curious about stink bugs and their eating habits. Stink bugs are known to feed on all kinds of plants and crops, and they can have a significant impact on agriculture. In this section, we’ll discuss the plants they prefer and their effects on agriculture.

Stink bugs are primarily plant feeders. They love to munch on fruits, vegetables, and ornamental plants. Their favorite food sources include apples, peaches, tomatoes, green beans, and soybeans. They have a particular preference for plants native to their geographic regions, such as eastern redbud, catalpa, and hibiscus in the United States.

These insects (True Bugs) can cause severe damage to plants and crops by piercing their mouthparts into plant tissues, sucking out the plant’s juices, and leaving behind waste and puncture wounds. This damage can cause the following:

  • Discoloration: Affected fruits might have discolored or disfigured skin.
  • Distortion: Leaves might develop a curled, blistered, or distorted appearance.

  • Reduced Yield: Feeding by these bugs can cause plants to drop flowers or fruits, leading to reduced production.
  • Stunted Growth: The affected crops might exhibit slowed growth or stunted overall.

The agricultural impact caused by stink bugs can be more significant when their populations reach high levels. Farmers and home gardeners must monitor their crops and plants to identify and deal with infestations early on. 

You can manage stink bugs through various methods, including the introduction of natural predators like parasitic wasps, as well as the use of insecticides when necessary.

Remember, while stink bugs can be annoying and cause damage to your favorite plants and crops, there are steps you can take to manage them and minimize their impact on your garden or farm. Watch for signs of their presence and act quickly to protect your plants and maintain a healthy environment.

Stink Bugs as a Pest

You might be familiar with stink bugs, the small, shield-shaped insects that release an unpleasant odor when disturbed. But did you know they can also be a significant pest? 

This section will discuss how stink bugs can be problematic for homeowners and gardeners. 

First, let’s talk about why stink bugs can be a nuisance to homeowners. These brown household bugs often seek shelter indoors during the colder months, finding their way into your home through cracks, gaps, or other openings. 

Once inside, they’ll search for a warm, secluded spot to spend the winter. This can include hiding within your walls, attic, or crawlspaces. Their presence causes discomfort due to their odor and can lead to potential allergens and sanitation issues.

For gardeners, stink bugs pose a different set of challenges. They’re notorious for feasting on various fruits, vegetables, and ornamental plants. Some common plants they’ll munch on include:

  • Tomatoes
  • Peppers
  • Beans
  • Corn
  • Grapes
  • Apples
  • Asparagus

As you can see, their diverse taste means they can cause damage to a wide range of crops. Stink bugs will pierce the surface of the plants, leaving behind discolored, distorted, or scarred fruits and vegetables. This damage can significantly impact the aesthetic and marketability of your produce. 

Plus, their feeding habits can also lead to secondary infections or the transmission of plant diseases.

In summary, stink bugs can be a considerable pest for homeowners and gardeners. Their indoor presence can cause sanitation concerns and a general nuisance, while their diverse appetite can wreak havoc on your plants and crops. By understanding the bugs’ behavior and patterns, you can take steps to prevent and manage these uninvited guests.

Methods of Control

Controlling stink bugs can be a challenging task, but don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. Here are some effective methods to keep these pesky bugs at bay.

Seal Entry Points:

  • Start by examining your home for cracks or crevices that allow stink bugs to enter.
  • Pay attention to windows, doors, vents, and siding.
  • Use caulk or weatherstripping to seal gaps, making your home less accessible to these insects.

Natural Enemies: Some natural enemies will kill at least one life stage of the pest, going after their eggs or nymphs. Learn more about the parasitoids that go after stink bugs here: 

Biological Control of Brown Marmorated Stink Bug

Use a Vacuum Cleaner: Some people like to suck them up in a vacuum cleaner and then dispose of them outside.

Inspect for Brown Marmorated Stink Bug Eggs: Look around your garden for signs of female stink bugs laying eggs.

Properly Dispose of Produce: Stink bugs feed on various fruits and vegetables. Be sure to promptly dispose of rotten or damaged produce, as it can attract more stink bugs. Keep your kitchen area clean and store fresh produce in sealed containers.

Use Traps: A simple way to reduce the stink bug population in your home is by using traps. Sticky traps or pheromone-based traps are popular choices. Place them near windows or areas where you’ve noticed stink bug activity. Replace traps as needed to keep them effective.

Organic Pest Control: There are some natural methods to consider when trying to keep stink bugs at bay. Spraying a soapy mixture of dish soap  and water directly on the bugs can eliminate them quickly. Additionally, you can introduce beneficial insects such as ladybugs, lacewings, yellow striped wasps to your garden, as they are natural predators of stink bugs.

Chemical Control: If you’re still struggling to eliminate stink bugs, you can use chemical pesticides. Be sure to work with a licensed pest professional.

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