Are you transporting alien bugs in your RV?

By Deanna Tolliver
Stink bugs! Specifically, brown marmorated stink bugs. Have you seen them in your RV? They’re more common in the eastern U.S. but are rapidly heading west, in part because they’re hitching rides in our RVs! 

They are not just ugly and smell bad: They present a potentially devastating threat to North American agriculture.

RV Travel editor Chuck Woodbury is very familiar with the bugs. “We were told about them last fall in a Pennsylvania RV park.” “It’s good you’re getting out now, before the stink bugs arrive,” a camper advised. Woodbury said he had never seen one before. Since then? “They have followed us everywhere. We killed six the other day, in early March, in our park in Texas. I’ve wondered if they’re here in Texas or if we brought them along with us.”


TAKE POLL BELOW: Have you seen these stink bugs?


First seen in Pennsylvania, the docile bugs arrived on cargo ships from Japan in the mid to late 1990s. Their spread across the United States has been carefully documented by the EPA and other agricultural sectors of the government. They made it across the country to Oregon by 2004 and in California by 2006. Besides our RVs, they’re hitching rides in furniture and other cargo trucks. Most new infestations are found in urban areas, but the bugs quickly spread to the countryside and threaten many different crops.

The bugs don’t like cold weather so they seek warmer places to overwinter. They can crawl through tiny cracks in houses and RVs, and remain immobile for several months. There are reports of infestations of more than 26,000 of them in just one house! With warmer weather, they wake up looking for food and mates.

“I saw one crawl into a space near my front fender,” said Woodbury. “There was no way I could reach him.”

Let’s say you visited the northeast in your RV last fall and then headed for warmer climes, say Texas, for the winter. If stink bugs were hiding in your RV, you may not know it until the furnace came on or the outside temperatures warmed up and woke them up. 

HOW YOU DO DEAL WITH THE PESTS IN YOUR RV? You kill them. But it isn’t pleasant. They’re called stink bugs for a reason. If you squash one with a fly swatter, you won’t forget that noxious odor. For heavy infestations, the EPA recommends a handheld vacuum dedicated to sucking them up. Why? Because their stinky odor remains in the vacuum bag for a very long time and you don’t want to smell that every time you vacuum the rug.

And they don’t just stink. They do harm! Even just one stink bug per three grape clusters during grape pressing can taint the flavor and aroma of wine!

If you just see a few every day or so, try catching them in a container with a lid and then dropping them in a jar with soap water, where they will drown…eventually. These are tough bugs. It takes two days in a freezer for one to die. Chuck Woodbury says he zaps them with his electric fly swatter. “There’s no mess that way,” he said.

Unfortunately, no commercially available fumigants will totally eliminate them, so “bug bombing” your rig isn’t recommended.

The EPA recommends that homeowners fill every crack they can to prevent infestations. That isn’t easy in an RV. There are many possible entry points, such as under slide-outs, plumbing entry points, and the occasional open door.

They may be tough, but they don’t bite. They’re just prehistoric-looking creepy things that can get in your clothes and your cupboards. Last fall I took a pair of jeans from a drawer, pulled them on, and immediately felt a large “something” crawling on one of my legs. I crushed it from the outside of the jeans. It was a stink bug! Yuk! I now thoroughly shake ALL clothes before I put them on. Hikers have reported opening their backpacks and finding hundreds inside.
The bugs are quickly becoming a worldwide problem. Most recently, thousands of car exports from Japan to New Zealand have been halted in Auckland Harbor because stink bugs were found in some of the cars. New Zealand stopped manufacturing cars in the late ‘90s so these imports are critical to its transportation needs. The cars can’t be fumigated because a chemical in the fumigant discolors car upholstery. Halting the car imports has already impacted thousands of Kiwis, from the dock workers to the car import companies to the people awaiting a car. However, the impact if these bugs burrowed into New Zealand agriculture would cause billions of dollars of damage.

In the U.S., how the spread of stink bugs may affect agriculture is at the forefront of research. They’ve been found in 44 states and four Canadian provinces. The crops most at risk include apples, nectarines, peaches, sweet corn and tomatoes. Sweet corn and soybeans are considered host crops, meaning they contribute to the spread to specialty crops (like those listed above). 

As RVers, we may be guilty of transporting these bugs but all we can do is eliminate the ones we find in our rigs. You just might keep a clothespin handy for your nose before you do.

Sign up to receive an email every day of
articles we’ve published in the past 24 hours.
Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner

Related

50 Thoughts to “Are you transporting alien bugs in your RV?”

  1. Mike & Mary Gregg

    We took the 5th wheel to Harrisburg, KY last October for a week. They were popping up in the trailer for the next three months. We will see if they are still in the 5th wheel when we start camping again come May.

  2. H&S

    We got infected in Harpers Ferry , WV one summer. We would go somewhere, come back to the car and the rubber around the doors would be covered by hundreds. You couldn’t get in with out a few following you in. It was a horrible infestation. We are from Texas and brought them back with us. WE finally killed them all, but it took say 2 years!

  3. Andy T

    Besides Stink Bugs in everything, we are being invaded by a somewhat new insect called “Lantern Fly.” This is a dangerous insect to our trees and crops. Right now it is in the eastern part of Pennsylvania. There is a ban on firewood from this area,

  4. Sheryl

    We had an even WORSE problem with Japanese Lady Beetles. They look like ladybugs, only they are an orange/brown color. They were EVERYWHERE in the 5th wheel we just sold. My husband vacuumed every single day for more than a week, and they would still just appear out of nowhere! We have a few in our new 5th wheel too, but we’re trying to keep a handle on them. They are unbelievable! And they stink too, plus they leave a yellow residue on your fingernails if you pick them up to throw them outside. Vacuuming is the best solution, but it takes forever and ever.

  5. Stewart Kranz

    Cedar oil/spray works great, kills them almost instantly (suffocates them). I use it every time I see one. It’s natural and non-toxic.

  6. TXdrawl

    Are these different from the ones that I learned (as a young child) to recognize in the early 50’s. Looks like the same bug. Also saw them in Arkansas when we went on fishing trips in the 50’s and 60’s. I am a lifelong Texan – Dallas area.

  7. Carol

    Found them as green bugs on my apricot tree (young ones) and they turned brown and have seen a few in the house. Going to try the light/Pepsi container trap and see if I come up with more in the house.

    1. CAROL

      I just looked these bugs up and we have green and brown ones on my apricot tree when the fruit is on the tree. Had a brown one on me, in the house, a couple of weeks ago.

  8. Darrel

    First saw these bugs near Roseburg Oregon in August and Sept 2017. Still find one every one to 2 weeks now in March 2018.

  9. Nick

    Take a 1 liter plastic Pepsi smooth sides . Cut completely around bottle just above the label. get a battery powered puck light . I insert light in bottom of bottle light shining up. Take the top of bottle you cut off invert into bottle. put three or four strips of masking tape running length wise turn on light at night with a pencil. Stink bugs are attracted to the light. They will crawl up the tape go inside the inverted top and into the bottle. they cannot get out.

  10. Fred

    2 years ago in Michigan for the summer, we started hearing the stink bugs for the first time dropping from trees on our rv every day in September, thousands of them every day. We left in mid October but the stink bugs kept coming out of every orifice in the rv for the next 6 months. While in Alabama, they averaged 20-30 bugs a day. by the time we got to Florida, it had slowed to a dozen a day. It was 6 months before we saw the last bug come out of hiding.

  11. kc

    We’ve lived & traveled all over this great land, but we’d never seen them before we went to Camp Decatur, up in Indiana. While at the REV Group repair facility, to get repairs to our Piece of Crap Holiday Rambler (due to shoddy workmanship, but that’s a whole other story), we must have gotten infested. Here we are, 6 months later, back in FL, where we live full time, and we are STILL seeing them! Thanks a heap, REV Group! Thankfully, at least, MOST of the time when we see them now, they are crispy and belly up. I hope we will see the last one sooner than later!

  12. Ron Evans

    I have bedbugs in my apartment. Have been professional treated with chemicals and heat treated whole apt. to 150 deg. Got rid of bed mattresses and covers. Now sleeping in my recliner. After two monthes, still see 1,2 Maybe 3 some nights. Sometimes 1 during day. Any ideas. Other than torching everything I own ???
    Ron
    Ronsoftail@yahoo.com

    1. Gene

      Diatamatious Earth . Dust everything with it .

      1. Kat

        Make sure it’s food grade and not the kind you use in swimming pools. Keep it out of your eyes and avoid breathing the dust.

    2. Wolfe

      Oh lord… actual bedbugs are BAD. Not sure if you’re saying you’re in a house or infected RV. They only differ by size, anyway.

      Take a deep breath and grab a stiff drink, because I’m sorry to give you the bad news. I fought them over a year with flare-up after flare-up before understanding HOW nuke-proof these bugs are.

      I live in a cabin (LOTS of little cracks!) and foster kids (let say, they don’t arrive clean!), so despite being careful got hit with BBugs a few years back. The species here can hibernate for *18 months* between feedings, so you’re unlikely to starve them out if you can’t poison them.

      150*F heat does NOT kill them — you need 180* for over 6 hours, and that has to be inside the walls where they hide. The pro guys near me tent the house and literally bake it for a FULL DAY. Not a reasonable thing, as most houses can’t withstand that, and you can’t remove the contents since they are infected. Since I’m in the northeast, I had better luck freezing them to death (they have natural anti-freeze, so you need to chill below 10* for several days — again, penetrating inside the walls. If you have access to liquid nitrogen, I’m told that helps. I’m not kidding.

      Absolutely all of your laundry has to go through HOT water, no exceptions. Any furniture with fabric is toast, and without fabric gets dis-assembled and poisoned in EVERY LITTLE CRACK. Some people put furniture in lawn bags and blow a hair-dryer through it (homemade heat-treatment), but I never had success in my “tests”…

      DE powder works by drying them out — you can help chase them out of cracks with it, but it doesn’t *really* work in my experience.

      Assuming you do NOT have pets (!), use an actual pro-strength (not Homeless Despot level) pesticide with a significant residual (the poison keeps killing for weeks, not hours).

      I finally got clean by applying TRIPLE the (professional) legal dosage, and then closing the infested room for MONTHS. Every time I saw some, I’d re-treat that emergence, and eventually they tapered out. If they are already all over your house, I’m afraid you may need to move out for a while in order to knock them out. Even a few survivors will re-populate in days.

      Since this is on an RV list, assuming it’s not your fulltime (only) residence, maybe you can (make darn sure you’re not moving the infestation yourself) and move into the RV for a while? I don’t think I’d EVER get ahead of the bugs if I had to live in the rooms while treating.

      Again, sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but even some licensed professional exterminators near me specifically refuse to treat them because even what they can legally use is just not effective. My finally effective dose was advised “unofficially” by a pro who said he can’t apply what he tells me to. Take it seriously, these aren’t like trivially easily killed ants.

      PS: It may also help if you can do a good impression of Arlo Guthrie screaming “I wanna KEEL!!!” while treating the rooms. The bugs won’t sing along, but it may help keep your humor up…

  13. Dan

    We visited Washington DC in 2013 and stayed. In Maryland just outside the DC beltway. Outside our MH was covered with a gray colored Stink bugs. Every year since than they show inside the coach. 4 or 5 over a couple of weeks several times a year. They are easy to catch by hand and take a trip down the the black tank. Must be breeders. It’s become a joke with us. D & C. Indiana

  14. Wolfe

    Most common insecticides DO kill them — I use Sevin Concentrate and it works great WHERE I can use it. The problem with insecticides is that you can’t use the much-gentler bug-bomb types that dissipate and dose weaker for these guys, and don’t want to use stronger stuff around pets and food.

    I add Dawn soap and a little water to my catch bottles — by dissolving their “water resistance” they die in under an hour. The downside is that this also seems to release their stink into the water, so if you’re NOT catching a full bottle every day, you’ll want to discard the water ANYWAY every day.

  15. rvgrandma

    I have seen a few but not many. Thinking back they usually appear when the snowbirds are returning north.

    The hobo spider and recluse spider are said to make their way north hitching rides. I remember decades ago when they started showing up in the north they believed they were hitching rides with backpackers on the Pacific Crest Trail.

    We have become a huge global society it is not surprising.

    I agree about the zapping – we got rid of ours years ago when I read not to have it near you because it causes the bug to explode blowing their guts every where. Yuck!

  16. Garry Curls

    This is the first year we have seen stink bugs. We are in Northern Illinois (NW Chicago). However we had hardly any box elder bugs. Maybe the stink bugs replaced the box elders?? I just squish them in Kleenex. I must be doing something right because I am very smell sensitive and I have not smelled anything. We winter in Florida and they came with us (about 10 in 3 months). It helps to know we aren’t the only ones.

  17. Connie Fletcher

    We were in Canandaigua, NY in fall of 2016 . one day none next day I killed 25 in our RV and that was just the beginning. Simple catch and squash! Others ended up getting all the way home to Louisiana. They seem to stay dormant because they “appear” occasionally in 2017.

  18. Danny Wells

    We had one in our RV while in Panama City FL.
    about a month ago. Were in Ocalla National Forest now haven’t seen one here but will keep an eye out for them.
    As far as being here since the ’90’s maybe this one species but I remember stink bugs from when I was a kid and that was decades before the 90’s

  19. DAVE TELENKO

    Hey Chuck, I’ve seen them in our California desert forever, but they are black & run around with their butt up in the air!
    Dave

  20. lauren oliver

    I have seen stinkbug traps advertised. basically, all it is is a soda bottle with a light in it. the bugs get in and can’t get out. stinkbugs are attracted to light. $25.

    1. Wolfe

      I make my own nearly free with a 2 liter and an LED hooked to a “Joule Thief” for longevity. During prime season, I fill the bottle in my bedroom *every few days*. I fear I must be close to the infestation level mentioned by chuck. I also get some year round since they winter in my woodpile and then warm up every time I bring in wood. Right now, it’s about a liter bottle per week.

  21. Beryl Wicker

    We had them in our RV. The coach stood in our pasture for 4 months and as we travelled we vacuumed them up. They were still appearing in Nevada and Arizona but we have been free of them for a couple of months. We also bought Japanese lady bugs which we picked up in South dakota. They too have stopped.

    1. Beryl Wicker

      We are also from PA

  22. George

    We live in PA. Kill hundreds and hundreds each week. cut top off water bottles, turn upside down, put soap water in bottle bottom, and slide the bottle trap up from under them, they “drop” before they fly, usually, we put out 5 or six bottles ofdead bugs each week in the season. They winter in our attic, come in roof vents before winter. they come down into the kitchen somehow during the winter, and we repeat the previous procedure. Good luck trying to eliminate them. There is a chemical the feed store sells to spray on brick walls and walls where they gather, I believe it is made by daisy. If have pets, not good to put out.
    George from PA

  23. Taking Chances RV www.3brew.com

    Yes we have stink bugs still after almost 6 months. We got them in a state park in Maryland. I find they come out more when it is hot weather. They are ugly little buggers. We are in Arizona now.

    1. Debra

      We also picked them up one night in Maryland, there were hundreds all over the coach. Then we turned on the AC and about 50 blasted out right over our bed! I mixed up a container of water with Dawn and used a coaster to flick them in. I found a few months later when we tore out the bathroom carpeting, they were under the carpet under the floor inside the sink cabinet! Awful things.

  24. Roger

    Wouldn’t recommend zapping them with the electric bug swatter/zapper anywhere around food or food prep areas. They don’t vaporize. You’re just showering the area with stink bug dust.

  25. Gene

    Mouse glue traps catch a few bugs . Finding a location and attaching them is the challenge .

  26. Sandy Carr

    We’ve found that the stink comes from their heads, so if you grab the stinkbug with a kleenex and squish its body as it’s wrapped up inside, then throw it away in the trash still wrapped up, there’s no smell.

  27. Fred

    As Mike stated above, the Spotted Lanternfly if it spreads, it will have a major impact on US business and agriculture. Here is a link to PA Agriculture’s web page on this invasive insect.

    http://www.agriculture.pa.gov/Plants_Land_Water/PlantIndustry/Entomology/spotted_lanternfly/Pages/default.aspx

  28. Lyn Holland

    We are from Cincinnati so yes we’ve had them in both our home a RV. We were in North Carolina and there was a infestation, they were everywhere. Hate those little Ba@#t#$ds

  29. Diane F.

    Actually, I have not seen them in my home, but they are plentiful in my gardens. They especially like the squash and cucumbers. I put on rubber gloves and mash them by hand. A chore any organic gardener such as myself probably rather enjoys! You have to get their eggs, too, which they lay in orange clusters on the underside of the big leaves.

  30. Mike Whelan

    Chuck,
    The article states they were first found in the 1990’s yet I distinctly (pun intended) remember them as a child growing up in southern Michigan. They were always found around fruits such as berries and grapes. Believing I had imagined this memory I contacted a friend who confirmed the presents of the little stinker in the 1950′ s and 1960’s. I think our EPA has missed the mark on this one.

    1. Deanna Tolliver

      Hi Mike!
      There are many different species of stinkbugs. The ones you saw while growing up in MI were the “native” ones. They have natural predators that keep their populations in check. The brown marmorated stinkbuys don’t have any natural predators and their populations are increasing exponentially and they are becoming agriculture’s number one pest.
      Thanks for writing.

  31. Eileen Bettpn

    When we find them we flush them. They are everywhere. We do everything we can to not let them live

  32. Barb and Ray

    We were in PA a couple of years ago in the fall. Opened the awning over the door and hundreds were inside the awning. Used the broom to dislodge them. Unfortunately, we were unable to kill them.

  33. Judy G

    Fortunately, my encounters both in homes and in my RV have been rare – a single bug on occasion. My solution is to ‘capture’ and flush….

  34. Susan Gudas

    Chuck, don’t worry. You didn’t start a bug infestation in Texas. I’ve seen “stink bugs” here in Central Texas since I was a child (and I’m sixty-seven).

  35. Russ

    Was in Staunton, VA several years ago and had to leave in a pouring rain. When we pulled in the slides there were hundreds of stinkbugs getting out of the rain under our slide toppers. Took over a year to kill them all in the RV

  36. Don Lee

    We have seen both stink bugs and those pesky Asian beetles. We use two methods to remove them. 1. capture them in an empty plastic water bottle. Both types of bug will usually fall right in. 2. We keep a roll of masking tape handy. The bugs will stick to the tape. Lift them off the surface and fold the tape over so that any offensive odors are contained inside the tape.

  37. bloom144

    While on a trip from up north the the Florida Keys several years ago we noticed several stinkbugs flying away from our RV. We killed what we caught and enjoyed watching the local lizards gobble up the ones they caught.
    BTW – there is an insecticide that does seem to kill stinkbugs. “Talstar”.

  38. mike

    Another pest that was recently (2014 or 15) discovered in east central Pa is The Spotted Lantern Fly. Very destructive and spreading fast.

  39. David Howard Sisson

    We where in the western North Carolina last year and there were some there, but what drove me crazy was Asian Lady Bugs. Later in the fall in Vicksburg Mississippi a different kind of lady bug invested our RV. Use HOT SHOT spray. That worked.

    1. Fletcher Christian

      Lady bugs or Asian Beetles are real bad In southwest Arkansas where I deer hunt. This is Weyerhaeuser timber country. They raise pine trees. There is a pine beetle that kills these pine trees, so Weyerhaeuser raises these Asian Beetles, the only natural enemy of Pine Beetles, and sprays them over their pine trees by airplane. You can’t keep them out of homes or RV’s.

      1. Sheryl

        They are awful in northeast Texas too! We had hundreds of them inside the 5th wheel that we just sold. Husband vacuumed every day for more than a week, and then you’d turn around and there were even more–seemingly out of nowhere. Ugh…they stink too.

    2. Ed & Robin D.

      We did a week near Asheville, NC in 2017. After 2 days they were everywhere. We found one just last week, almost a year later, in our RV. I hope at some point, we are able to finally rid ourselves of these pesky critters!

Comments are closed.