jcheckersSeptember 24, 2010

Recently I've had an increasing problem with stinkbugs, especially on my okra. I pick them and squish but there are more and more and I can't be out pickin' and squishin' all day.

I was over on the tomato forum and found this suggestion in a Stinkbug Remedies Thread.

If you seriously want to do something organic to minimize stinkbugs, you could do several of the following (all approved by usda as organic):

1. Floating row covers

2. Pyrethrin spray or dust

3. Pick the ones you can catch and drop into a can or bucket with a little rubbing alcohol (especially the wintergreen kind)

4. Watch for the red egg clusters and pick those

5. Spray the ones you see with Organic Gardening's recipe: Two cups water, one cup rubbing alcohol, one tablespoon neem oil (or veg oil), one tablespoon liquid soap (like Dr Bronners, not dish detergent), 25-30 drops of mint oil or cinnamon oil (or both). Shake well and spray on bugs with a hand sprayer (not a hose). This will kill all bugs and caterpillars upon contact, even Japanese beetles and grasshoppers.

6. I know Bigdaddy doesn't want a bait crop, but for the rest of you readers, I have found them to be very effective. My favorite is to plant Crowder Peas (Field Peas) across the garden from my tomatoes. Not only do the stinkbugs love them but they are also extremely heat hardy and drought hardy, and will produce a crop of peas for you, stinkbugs notwithstanding. I use the peas as a magnet, then spray them with the mint spray every few days. Works like a charm!

I thought I would run this past our friends here on the Oklahoma Forum, as I'm not sure how reliable info from the Tomato Forum is (after all some of those folks over there are 'Yankees')

I was especially interested in the Organic Gardening's Recipe mentioned. Does any of y'all have any experience with this mix and if so does it only kill on contact or will it repel them from returning?



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Keith, it all looks pretty good to me. But I grow cowpeas and the stinkbugs seem to manage to still hit the tomatoes and okra. But then, under certain circumstances, a trap crop might work. This has been the worst year for pests that I have ever seen.

Tahlequah, OK

    Bookmark   September 26, 2010 at 8:16AM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7


Stinkbugs have been a garden pest for as long as I can remember and I've never seen any really effective method for dealing with them although I've seen dozens of home-made formulas that supposedly work.

I haven't tried the formula you linked from the Tomato Forum, but I do want to make the point that we live in a hotter, drier climate than many other Garden Web members and it is VERY EASY for homemade formulas that work in cooler, milder climates with less intense heat/sunlight to burn plant foliage when sprayed on plants in a very hot climate with intense sunlight. Thus, you have to be very careful about what you spray on plants in our hot summer months and you have to time your spraying carefully or you'll burn foliage. For that reason, I tend to avoid home-made formulas for the most part because it isn't worth the risk.

I'm not a huge fan of trap crops planted near a garden because they just attract more and more bugs. They might work if you're willing to use them to attract bugs and then spray them heavily with a pesticide to kill the bugs, but I seldom use any pesticides at all, and only organic ones when I use one, and there is no organic pesticide that I feel is safe enough to use and also effective on stinkbugs. There are some very heavy duty organic pesticides that might show limited effectiveness on stinkbugs but I won't use them because of their toxic side effects on humans and on cats.

If a homemade formula like the one given above was effective, some company would adapt the formula, manufacture it and sell it, and as far as I know, no one does. That's a clue, I think.

I think a person's location plays a large part in whether or not their chosen control method works at all or if it works well.

If you're in a typical city neighborhood, for example, with lots of neatly maintained yards, you have one kind of pest pressure. If you're in a more rural area surrounded by thousands of acres left in a mostly natural state with virtually no mowing or pest control methods employed, you have a whole different kind of pest pressure. So, I think what works for one person in one setting may or may not work for another person in a different setting, and you won't know what might or might not work for you until you try it.

Stink bugs have been a hard-to-control pest for farmers and gardeners for many decades and I don't there is or ever will be a manmade solution that eradicates them. The problem with all insects we consider pests is that they evolve and develop resistance to pesticides so even something that seems effective at a given time may not be effective next year or 5 years from now or whatever.

I agree with George that 2010 was a terrible pest year and all I can say is some years are like that and we just have to deal with those years the best that we can.

My insect problems usually peak in late July through late August and I tend to just shrug and say "oh well" and wait for the intense insect pressure to pass. You can drive yourself crazy trying to control a pest that is pretty much not controllable, and I just decided years ago I wouldn't make myself crazy trying to do that. My dream garden, by the way would be fully enclosed by a hoophouse covered in windowscreening material to keep out pests, but that's never going to happen!


    Bookmark   September 26, 2010 at 10:10AM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7

I read the linked article, which originally appeared in The Washington Post, in yesterday's edition of The Dallas Morning News. It describes how the marmorated stinkbug (I haven't seen those here yet) is invading the Atlantic states, including attempting to overwinter inside homes. It is bad enough to deal with them in the garden. I'd hate to find them coming indoors in the fall.


Here is a link that might be useful: Stink Bugs Invading D. C.

    Bookmark   September 27, 2010 at 8:00AM
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Dawn and George,

Thanks for the replies, I've got more to add when I have more time probably tomorrow... Thanks,


    Bookmark   September 27, 2010 at 9:26PM
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Thanks for the link to the story from the Washington Post. This clears up something I doubted from the author of Stink Bug Remedies in the Tomato forum.

They are getting in the house now like crazy since the cool nights have arrived. I blame WalMart for their mid 90's invasion from China as they are presumed to have entered the US through the Port of Philadelphia...:(

When I read this I thought well here's another know-it-all Yankee, as I remembered Mark Twain making reference to stink bugs in his book "Huckleberry Finn."

Apperently he was right about the Brown Marmorated Stinkbug entering the US from China in the 1990s. From the Washington Post:

There is no easy way to kill lots of the bugs at once. They have no natural predators in the United States. Pesticides don't work effectively. The insects travel easily - hitching rides on buses and construction material - and adapt to winter in homes. As a result, they have flourished, spreading to 29 states since they arrived in Allentown, Pa., in 2001, likely stowaways in a shipping container from Asia. They are native to Japan, Korea and China, where they are known as "stinky big sisters."

After reading the Washington Post article, I took the time to read through the comments from readers and found this from one of the readers:

noraron wrote:
No need for scientific studies or expensive traps. EcoSMART organic no-toxic insecticide kills them instantly. It's a mixture of pepperment oil, cinnamon oil, sesame oil and other oils. It smeels really good but can be overbearing if too much is sprayed. Home Depot sells it.

Perhaps there is something to the use of these aromatic oils and alcohol. Here is a link to EcoSMART, "EcoSMART". And here is the link to the PDF file on their product Home Pest Control, "Home Pest Control PDF"

As you can see from the PDF file the product contains a type of alcohol, Clove oil, Rosemary oil, Peppermint oil and Thyme oil. As far as the other ingrediants, I don't know what OAPS is but I suspect lecithin may be the binder that makes
it stick.

I'm certainly not endorcing this product from EcoSMART but merely bringing it up for discussion.

Also in the Remedies Thread was a discussion of Rose of Sharon: They do seem to like rose of sharon seed pods so I am thinking its relative okra would attract them. This got me out investigating my Rose of Sharon planted 20 years ago to attract honeybees and not 20' from my garden. Sure enough the flower buds and seed pods were covered with Stinkbug nymphs. So.... I don't know if I didn't have the Rose of Sharon, I might not have Stinkbugs at all or if I didn't have the Rose of Sharon then the Stinkbugs might have already eaten my okra plants to the ground....

At this point the okra has just about worked itself out, and so far the bugs have left my tomatoes, peppers and fall plantings of squash and green beans alone, so barring an invasion of these plants I will probably do nothing. I would welcome any and all discussion on the EcoSMART products though...

Thanks, Keith


A garden is never so good as it will be next year. -- Thomas Cooper

    Bookmark   September 28, 2010 at 4:19PM
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I can tell you one plant that they LOVED this year in my city garden and that's Cleome. They absolutely devoured the seed pods on them. I hand picked every one that I found. I grew tomatos and many other things, and found 1 or 2 here and there - none on the tomatos - but the Cleomes were the primary target for the bugs. I have see them in the garden before, but never the numbers seen this summer, and never on one major plant.

Next year there could be fewer bugs; the target plant(s) could change; or they could select a wide range of plants and not just one. However, I always have Cleome in the garden so we'll see if they continue to be their favorite.

I garden organically and don't use any chemicals at all - even the so-called "organic" pesticides. Organic pesticides can be as harmful to butterflies and their caterpillars as the chemical pesticides.


    Bookmark   September 29, 2010 at 7:42AM
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helenh(z6 SW MO)

That is a good idea. I think I could catch them on cleome seed pods. Tomato plants are big and brittle and the bugs are hard to catch on them. I have green stink bugs on the rose o sharon and brown ones on tomatoes, so I don't think the rose of sharon is causing my tomato problem

    Bookmark   September 29, 2010 at 1:41PM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7


I am sure the marmorated stink bugs will reach us eventually, but all I see here are the plain brown ones and green ones that we've had around here since as far back as I can remember....which I suppose is the 1960s or 1970s which I was a kid and we had a backyard garden.

One thing to remember is that you need to be careful when using any oil or soap based product in our climate in the hot summer months of June, July or August. Oil and soap based products can burn foliage in intense sunlight and heat, so it is always a good idea to use them sparingly and to test them first on one plant and then wait 24 hours to see if foliar burn appears. We cannot use some products heavily here in our hot summers that work fine for folks in climates with less heat and/or less intense sunlight. I learned that one the hard way years ago!

I haven't tried the product you mentioned and likely won't. Because I rely on beneficial insects for 95% or more of my pest control, I rarely use any sort of spray, either synthetic or organic in origin, in my garden and I am not going to start now. I just refuse to use anything that will harm the beneficial insects that target the pest insects and about the only pesticides I use any more target a very narrow range of insects.

I never use a broad-spectrum pesticide for that reason. Specifically, here's what I use: I use organic Slug-Go Plus (iron phosphate plus spinosad) scattered on top of the raised beds for pill bugs and sow bugs which inhabit our heavily-mulched beds by the thousands. I use an organic, granular fire ant product containing spinosad applied directly to fire ant mounds to control fire ants in the veggie garden. I use an organic bio-insecticide that contains Nosema locuste in April/early May for the early instars of grasshoppers. Otherwise, I rely on beneficial insects, birds, lizards, toads, frogs, etc. to control pests and don't spray my plants with anything. Many insecticides, including those that are organic in origin, are dangerous and I will not use them now even if I used them in the distant or recent past. Like Susan, I'd rather have the wild things like butterflies and moths, and bees and dragonflies, etc.

Giving up Bt 'kurstaki' was the hardest thing in the world for me because I hate, hate, hate hand-picking damaging caterpillars, but I stopped using it because I didn't want to hurt the butterflies and moths that we want to have around. I've had an unopened bottle of Bt for so long that it likely isn't even good any more, but I hang on to it as a 'security blanket', I guess, even though I don't use it.

Oh, and sometimes I use organic mosquito dunks (their active ingredient is Bt 'israelensis') or their granular equivalent in my lily pond or rain barrels to kill mosquito larvae.

Hand-picking works for me even though it is time-consuming in a garden the size of mine (roughly 100' x 100' plus 80 containers and a 10' x 20' potato patch) and for everything else, I rely on Mother Nature to work as intended. Our garden has a healthy ecosystem of beneficial insects and they work very well at controlling pest insects, but there are not many insects that control true bugs like stink bugs, leaf-footed bugs, squash bugs and blister beetles. Even as much as I hate blister beetles, they do eat grasshopper eggs, so I tolerate them.

My form of natural gardening with beneficial insects is not for everyone, but it works for me. I have worked hard to introduce/encourage beneficial insects and then stay out of their way and let them do their job. Despite high pest levels this year, I still had great yields, filling up 2 freezers, a root cellar and canning right at 600 jars of produce, so I know it is possible to raise crops without spraying pesticides. I have had to tolerate some pest damage, but since the object (for me and my family) of growing veggies and fruits is to have healthy, organic food raised locally and without the use of chemical pesticides, fungicides and herbicides, I feel like I'm meeting my own goals. I won't say I'd never use any organic product other than the ones I mentioned, but so far I haven't used them in recent years and I'd like to continue down that road.

I would like to think that it will be a cold day in hell before I ever spray an insecticide in my garden again. : ) If ever there was a year when I would have broken my own code of 'first, do no harm' and sprayed a pesticide of some sort, I think it likely that it would have been in 2010 when we saw the highest pest levels ever. I didn't do it though (I surely considered it) and I feel really good about that.

Pest levels cycle up and down all the time. Sometimes we have so few damaging pests that even my beneficial insects disappear because they have to go elsewhere to find enough to eat in order to survive. That sort of year worries me because I fear the beneficials might not find their way back....and, yet, they always do.

If you try the clove oil product, I hope you'll keep us posted on how it works for you because others here on the forum who use pesticides surely would like to know about how it works if you try it.


    Bookmark   September 29, 2010 at 1:54PM
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Just for an update, I couldn't find the EcoSMART product locally so I mixed up the home recipe.

Spray the ones you see with Organic Gardening's recipe: Two cups water, one cup rubbing alcohol, one tablespoon neem oil (or veg oil), one tablespoon liquid soap (like Dr Bronners, not dish detergent), 25-30 drops of mint oil or cinnamon oil (or both). Shake well and spray on bugs with a hand sprayer (not a hose). This will kill all bugs and caterpillars upon contact, even Japanese beetles and grasshoppers.

I didn't use the rubbing alcohol and used regular Dawn (not concentrated and not anti-bacterial)and Canola oil. I found Cinnamon and Mint oil at Hobby Lobby in the cake decorating dept.
I first used a misting type of spray bottle and it didn't really faze them, then I changed to a foaming type sprayer and it seemed to work better. It definately didn't "Kill on Contact" but it has slowed them down somewhat. Not sure if it is really worth the trouble...


    Bookmark   October 3, 2010 at 3:38PM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7


Thanks for the update. That's how I feel about a lot of insecticides....they aren't worth the trouble because Mother Nature quickly sends in a new batch of bugs to replace any you might kill or chase off.

The cooler weather we're experiencing right now ought to be killing off a lot of summer pests. I'm seeing more and more dead grasshoppers every day. Unfortunately, I'm seeing lots of mating pairs of grasshoppers too, so I'm sure they're laying lots of eggs in the soil before they die.


    Bookmark   October 3, 2010 at 4:54PM
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