Thursday, September 1, 2011

Stink Bugs: I’ve Found Hundreds of Them

Stink bugs hiding under lilac leaf

I’ve discovered Stink-Bug Central, at least in the landscape here at Meadow Glenn.

During gardening year 2011 I’ve been alert to brown marmorated stink bug comings and goings, and I’ve posted about some of them. Early this growing season I’d find five or 10 stink bugs on each fruiting head of our developing blackberries and raspberries.  Then they attacked our tomatoes, especially the larger varieties, even before they began changing from green to red.  I planted squash and cucumbers in late June to avoid borer problems but found the late-growing plants were manna from Bob for the stink bugs, which attacked both foliage and fruit.

Last month I noticed stink bugs in fairly large numbers on the trunks and larger limbs of our Japanese maple trees and in lesser numbers on our native maple, oak, dogwood, and redbud trees.

Recently I realized I had ignored our spring-flowering shrubs, so when I pruned a hedge of forsythia on Tuesday, I checked the shrubs and also a nearby lilac bush.  The 20-foot hedge of forsythia was stink-bug free, but the lilac shrub….

Stink bugs on lilac branch
Wow!  Large numbers of stink bugs were hiding in the lilac shrub, especially on leaves shadowed by other leaves and in leaves that had curled a bit.  As I looked closely, I noted major damage to the leaves and new growth.  Surprised, I went to the opposite end of the house to inspect our second lilac.

As I approached the second lilac, I accidentally brushed a low-hanging branch with my right shoulder and then ducked instinctively as a horde of buzzing insects bounced off me.

Hornets?  Wasps?

No, scores of buzzing, flying stink bugs from just one lilac branch.

More stink bugs on lilac branches
I took a close look at both lilacs.  Many leaves hosted groups of four or five.  Large groups—scores of stink bugs—gathered in multiple places on branches.

How many brown marmorated stink bugs were in our two lilacs?  There must have been hundreds, if not thousands, on the two bushes.

If you had stink bugs in your landscape last year and haven’t seen many this year, and if you have a lilac plant, investigate.  You may be shocked at the numbers of bugs you find, and you may know the answer to your question, “Where are the all the stink bugs this year?”

My discovery of stink-bug central may also answer a question about lilacs.

Several weeks ago, Ellen asked, “Did we have any lilac blooms this spring?”

“I can’t remember any,” I replied.  “Perhaps it was the weather.”

Or perhaps in summer and fall 2010 the brown marmorated stink bugs destroyed the buds that would have been lilac blooms in spring 2011.

Seems possible to me.

What do you think?


  1. Bob,

    Absolutely. BMSBs suck the life blood out of the lilacs and if they didn't destroy the flowering buds, they absolutely prevented the plant from creating enough energy to make flowers. Is lilac a native plant from China?

  2. Most lilacs are native of China, Korea, Japan, or Southern Europe, according to Michael Dirr, woody landscape plant guru. Now we know, Kent. The stink bugs are hunkering down in our lilacs for some "good home cookin'," the "cookin'" being our lilac bushes.

  3. I received an email from J.S. of Harford County, Maryland, who said she has plenty of stink bugs in her garden but found "nary a one" when she checked her lilac bush.

  4. I too have found alot of stink bugs on my lilac bushes. I now remember, I didn't have a single bloom this year.

  5. I haven't had a single bloom on my lilac bush in about five years. I had no idea why. Today I brushed against it and found it was infested with probably tens of thousands of the little bastards.

    1. Found stink bugs in our lilac bush so I hung a trap ( that had worked in other areas ) in the bush. Not one bug went into trap. They preferred sucking the life out of the leaves.

  6. Sorry, ParrotRob. I've lucked out this year ... hardly a BMSB on my lilacs. Perhaps we'll have a bloom or two next spring.