Your kids have certainly noticed them around the school yard of late. You may have even had a few make their way into your home this autumn. And while the “stink bug” has been around for as long as most of us can remember, we’re currently in the throes of a stink bug invasion in Western Canada. It’s so bad that the Government of British Columbia has issued a Pest Alert for the Brown Marmorated Stink Bug (BMSB). Why are they a problem beyond the fact that they are creepy and crawly?
The stink bug is an invasive species in Canada. They disrupt the biological diversity of our region, and more importantly for the intents and purposes of this article – they wreak havoc in our backyard, community, and school gardens. They damage plants and crops by piercing and sucking sap from leaves, buds, blossoms and fruit, destroying seedlings and stunting plant growth in their wake. Evil little creatures.
As such, we have an important mission for you to pass on to your kids – declare war on the stinky stink bug! Here’s how to keep them out of the garden.
4 Fun Things Your Kids Can Do to Keep Stink Bugs from Destroying Their Backyard, Community, and School Garden
Times have changed since we were kids. Back in the day very few really knew about beneficial bugs. A bug was a bug. Our playground pals squashed them when they saw them. Simple. But parents and teachers today devote time to educating children about the importance of certain insects and how they are required to keep our plants and crops healthy. We have outfitted your kids with information about “beneficial bugs” including guides for how to nurture them through the winter and invite them into the garden as often as possible.
But, when it comes to the invasive BMSB – it’s time to get medieval on their stinky butts!
That’s right, give your kids free rein to step, swat, and smash them at will. Your children will relish this task as they get a morbid kick out of the stench that’s released when the bugs are squashed. Just be sure that they don’t mistake the enemy for the beneficial Podisus maculiventris which resembles the pesky stink bug. Your kids can learn to spot the difference between the two in this guide.
Call in the Samurai!
The stink bug has a natural adversary. It’s awesomely known as the Samurai Wasp, and they followed the stink bug into Canada with one mission in mind – destroy the enemy! Agriculture and Agri-food Canada has declared this wasp a “potential biological control agent” that can be leveraged to fight off the stink bug invasion. Even better news, is that the same tactics that your kids (with your help) can use to make your garden more accommodating to bees and wasps apply to the Samurai too. Furthermore, wasps in general are a threat to stink bugs, so inviting them into the garden is a win-win.
Plant “Stinky” Plants
Ironically, one of the best natural defenses your kids can use to keep stink bugs out of your garden, is to plant crops that are typically very odorous. The following pungent plants are great candidates for Western Canada’s climate:
Head to your local home and garden centre today and stock up on plants and seedlings from the list above, then set the kids loose in the soil to start planting.
Give Them a Bath
This may sounds like a nice thing to do for the stink bug, but as their name infers – they want nothing to do with soap and water. Load up a spray bottle with non-harmful (to plants) organic dish soap and send your kids outside with a mission to point-and-shoot. Spraying plants (and stink bugs when visible) with soapy water is en effective method of controlling infestation. When a stink bug becomes coated with soap, the surface membranes of their exoskeleton are impaired. This causes them to drown easily in the spray. Bye bye BMSB.
Beyond the fun things your kids can do, a few practical tips will go a long way to keep the BMSB at bay. Keep lawns mowed and remove all weeds in and around the garden to discourage stink bugs from laying their eggs. In addition, rake away leaves and lawn debris this autumn to keep adult stink bugs from overwintering. We’ll leave these “chores” to you while they kids enjoy their more inspired tactics!