Stink bugs are one of the invasive species in the US. Introduced from Asia, it’s often confused with other bug species as it has a common shield-like shape or a rounded shape.
The brown or green coloring of the bugs also makes them confusing to those comparing them to other brown species in the country.
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What Are Stink Bugs?
Stink bugs are part of the Pentatomidae family introduced in the US from Southeast Asia. These bugs get their name from the foul smell they eliminate.
This odor is only eliminated when disturbed, but it may also be present in the area around the bugs. A similar defensive mechanism is also seen on other bugs.
Furthermore, its coloring might also be seen in other US bugs which leads to confusion.
Stink Bug Identification
Stink bugs are known for growing to a maximum body size between 5 and 12mm. These bugs are mostly known for having brown or green coloring.
In rare cases, Stink bugs can also have a gray-metallic color.
The species is relatively new to North America as it has been first described in 1998.
These bugs have spread to many states across the Eastern United States where they are constantly seen as pests in agriculture.
Tomatoes, soybeans, peaches, and peppers are just a few of the crops these types of bugs invade.
Stink bugs limit their damage to drinking the juices of plants, but this is sufficient to stunt plant growth or to kill plants altogether.
It has been shown that Stink bugs also insert saliva into plants apart from drinking plant juices.
What Do Stink Bugs Look Like
The body shape is similar to a shield. It tapers towards the lower abdomen.
Thea head of Stink bugs is triangular-shaped.
Further smaller differences exist within the Stink bugs species. These bugs are known for sexual dimorphism which entails physical differences between males and females.
Stink bugs eat other insects as well as plants. They use a long proboscis to suck out the liquids from these foods.
These bugs are seen as a major pest for crops in the US.
The Green Stinking bug is one of the most common stinking bugs in North America. It’s a serious soybean, tomato, and peach pest.
Habitat and Distribution
Stink bugs are confirmed in 44 US states. These bugs have been introduced to the US 30 years ago and have now spread to most states. The most common Sink bugs in the US include the following:
- Green Stinking bug (Chinavia hilaris)
- Harlequin cabbage bug (Murgantia histrionica)
- Brown marmorated stink bug (Halyomorpha halys)
- Twice-stabbed Stink Bug (Cosmopepla lintneriana)
- Brown Stink Bug (Euschistus servus)
Bugs That Look Like Stink Bugs
Multiple US bug species resemble various Stink bugs. Some of them are pests while others aren’t yet categorized as pests.
1. Kissing Bugs
Kissing bugs are brown to black, similar in coloring to brown Stink bugs.
Both Kissing bugs and Stink bugs are known for bright marks along the edges of the body. These have an off-white color on Stink bugs and orange, brown, or yellow on Kissing bugs.
Another common reason why these species are often confused includes the number of legs. Both species have 3 pairs of legs.
The beak used to suck liquids from prey is seen in both these species. However, the beak has a different number of segments on these species.
There’s a 3-segmented beak on Kissing bugs and a 4-segmented beak on Stink bugs.
A shared habitat in North America also leads to further confusion between these species.
Kissing bugs are found in 29 US states. Stink bugs are found in 44 US states.
2. Assassin Bugs
Many Assassin bugs are brown, similar to Stink bugs. They have a rounded abdomen as do some Stink bugs.
Assassin bugs also share a long beak to suck fluids. This beak is often curved, just as the beak of many Stink bugs.
Many species of Assassin bugs are brown or dark-colored. However, these bugs also come in vivid colors and these characteristics are also seen in Stink bugs with variable coloring.
Common habit traits include reliance on predatory behavior. Assassin bugs suck the blood of vertebrates while Stink bugs sometimes eat insects.
Cockroaches grow up to a couple of inches but their 3 pairs of legs make them resemble Stink bugs the most.
Almost all US states are home to various species of cockroaches that are black, brown, white, or gray, similar to Stink bugs.
These 2 species are similar through a flattened body and long antennae further.
Both species have wings. However, not all cockroach species can fly while most Stink bugs can fly.
A small head (in relation to the body) also characterizes both species. These bugs have a wide thorax and a small head (smaller in the case of Stink bugs).
A specific odor is believed to be associated with both species as well. However, it’s used for different purposes.
Stink bugs have an odor for defensive purposes. Cockroaches use pheromones and scent trails to lure in other members of their genus towards sources of food.
4. Seed Bugs
Brown and molted coloring are specific to Seed bugs as well as to Stink bugs. This color is combined with a rounded body and a small head seen in both species.
Seed bugs also come in red and black coloring. All-color Seed bugs are known for having 3 pairs of strong legs similar to Stink bugs.
These bugs also share common habits in mating where pheromones are released as a way of communication.
Seed bugs are believed to use various odors to communicate and attract mates while Stink bugs are used both pheromones and a foul smell for mating plus defensive purposes when handled.
5. Damsel Bugs
A small head, a flattened body, and 3 pairs of strong legs characterize Damsel bugs as well as Stink bugs.
These common traits can make these species resemble each other significantly when both have gray coloring.
Rounded eyes and thick strong legs make these species look alike further.
The shield-like shape used to describe the form of Stink bugs is also found in some studies and scientific descriptions of Damsel bugs with a pointed abdomen.
These 2 species have also been shown to share their US habitat at times, albeit with some differences.
Damsel bugs are frequently found in non-cultivated areas of agricultural fields. Stink bugs are commonly found on agricultural fields where they feed on a variety of plants and where they are seen as pests.
Other behavioral aspects make these bugs different. Stink bugs can make their way inside homes on occasion, especially when looking for food.
Damsel bugs are known for biting occasionally as predators.
6. Plant Bugs
There are many types of Plant bugs in North America. Those in the family of Miridae are known for resembling Stink bugs and Damsel bugs.
Bugs of the species are characterized by a flattened body and molted coloring. They are known for exhibiting stripes which might help separate these species for correct identification.
Miridae Plant Bugs are known to be oval all the time while Stink bugs are only occasionally oval as they can also have a shield-like pointed shape.
Plant bugs typically measure around 12mm but they can grow up to 15mm.
7. Giant Water Bugs
Giant Water Bugs are among the species similar to Stink bugs with a shield-like shape. These species can further resemble in coloring with both black and brown individuals.
Similarities between these species can be seen in areas such as leg width. However, Giant Water Bugs remain larger than Stink bugs as they grow up to 4 inches.
There are differences in a habitat that can further help differentiate Giant Water Bugs from Stink bugs.
Giant Water Bugs are found in freshwater habitats. They are dependent on aquatic habitats for food.
These bugs are predators but they have completely different prey to Stink bugs. Giant Water bugs prefer foods such as fish and snails alongside larger prey such as baby turtles.
Most importantly, while similar in shape and color, Giant Water Bugs are uniquely adapted to living in water which can’t be said about Stink bugs.
8. Scentless Plant Bugs
Scentless Plant Bugs have a rounded shape similar to the shape of some Stink bugs.
This rounded shape is elongated partially resembling the shape of a shield.
These bugs are mostly known for being brown with red marks around the edges.
Multiple species of Scentless Plant bugs resemble Stink bugs. Aufeius impressicollis is the brown species that mostly resembles the brown marmorated Stink bug.
Color differences between these 2 types of bugs are almost non-existent. Both the Brown Marmorated Stink Bug and brown Scentless Plant Bugs have bright markings along the edges.
9. Bordered Plant Bugs
Bordered Plant Bugs have a similar stout body to Stink bugs.
These bugs have contrasting colored edges which inspires their name. This is a similar trait to Stink bugs.
Bordered Plant Bugs have 3 pairs of strong legs similar to Stink bugs.
A typical Bordered Plant bug is mostly dark-colored or even black. Orange-red marks on the edges are characteristic of all color variations of the species.
Bordered Plant Bugs are known to be larger than Stink bugs as they grow approximately to 55mm.
These strong legs are used for moving around piles of leaves as the bugs are ground-dwelling. They are mostly known for drinking plant juices.
10. Bed Bugs
Bed bugs have a similar rounded shield-like shape similar to Stink bugs.
Brown body coloring also makes these species similar as most bed bugs are brown.
A flat body is characteristic of both Bed bugs and Stink bugs.
Size differences are considerable between Bed bugs and Stink bugs. Bed bugs are the size of a pinhead.
Bed bugs are almost always tied to human developments, unlike Stink bugs. They make their way inside the home through clothes or luggage.
Apart from size differences, Bed bugs and Stink bugs can be further differentiated by their activity levels. Bed bugs are nocturnal while Stink bugs are diurnal.
11. Chinch Bugs
Chinch bugs have an elongated body shape and 3 pairs of legs. These bugs also have a flattened appearance similar to the flat body of Stink bugs.
Found across North America, Chinch Bugs are seen in a wide variety of colors. This includes red, brown, and gray.
Chinch bugs are mostly known for sharing similar habitat with Stink bugs but they prefer grass foods such as rye and wheat.
Chinch bugs can be unknown to the general public but the species is common among farmers. The bugs have been a major pest in the US in the past when the bugs invaded wheat fields.
The same fields have been repurposed by farmers into soybean crops to deal with Chinch bugs.
12. Leaf-footed Bugs
Leaf-footed Bugs are known for their oval-shaped body. These bugs are some of the largest Heteroptera genus bugs as they grow up to 45mm.
One of the easiest methods to differentiate dark brown Leaf-footed Bugs from brown Stink bugs is by examining legs.
Leaf-footed Bugs have enlarged bowed hind femora which are atypical in the bugs’ world.
Another method of distinguishing between Leaf-footed bugs and Stink bugs is by examining eating habits. Leaf-footed bugs regularly consume tree sap.
It’s believed some species of Stink bugs have been introduced to the US from China.
These bugs are first identified by their brown color. Identification issues arise with individuals of the species of different colors.
Other colors Stink bugs are known for include red, gray, and black.
However, the most common type of Stink bug in the US is the marmorated bug which is a type of veined bug.
As their name suggests, these bugs are known for a specific odor that acts as a deterrent for natural predators.
This odor is secreted by a specific gland located underneath the thorax.
This smell is often compared to coriander and it acts as a deterrent for predators such as bats and spiders. While many bugs resemble Stink bugs, none of the similar species have this specific coriander-like defensive odor.