It stinks when you find stink bugs in your garden, especially if you squish them! These insects in the order Hemiptera (family name Pentatomidae) release a foul smell to keep predators away when they’re injured or squished. They’re unpleasant in the garden, especially since they can damage your plants. There are several types of stink bugs you might spot in your garden that you should keep an eye out for.
A singular stink bug can’t cause too much damage on its own. But that’s the downside—they’re usually present in great numbers since they lay many eggs at once. They feed on plant juices and other plant parts, and if left untreated, you’ll likely see lots of damage.
Not every stink bug will ruin your garden, however! Some predatory species will lend a helping hand by eating many other insects that are considered pests in your garden like caterpillars and beetle larvae. It’s super important to know which bugs want to help and which will hinder, so let’s look at the ones you might find in your garden.
How to Identify Stink Bugs
Brown Marmorated stink bug – Halyomorpha halys. Source: Gilles San Martin
Stink bugs come in various colors and patterns, so how are you supposed to tell which is which? It’ll certainly come down to memorization of each species in the order Hemiptera and family name Pentatomidae, but you’ll know if those are stink bugs on your plants when you see their shield-shaped bodies and sucking mouthparts. In fact, stink bugs are also called shield bugs because of their shape.
Much like shields from the days of yore, their shield-shaped bodies have variations, which will help you identify specific species. Some stink bugs are round, while others are elongated. The “shoulders” could be rounded or have spikes that jut out to the side or forward toward the head. The bottom of the shield-shaped body may be pointed, round, or flat. The stink bug’s back could be flat or have a cool and threatening spike, kind of like a shark.
Some stink bug species closely resemble many other insects considered true bugs. Learn which species live in your area and what they eat or live on to help you narrow down the species. It’s also important to note that many nymphal stages – A.K.A. stink bug children and teens – don’t resemble the adult stink bugs they become.
Solid color stink bugs are often multicolored until they become adult stink bugs, or green ones may start out black and red. Some have a life cycle that includes five nymphal stages called instars. Sometimes you can’t know until they grow up!
Stink Bug Pests
Most stink bug species in the family Pentatomidae consume plant juice with their sucking mouthparts and are bad news for your garden and other plants nearby. If you don’t try to control them, they’ll quickly multiply and hurt your plants. These insects don’t typically ruin entire plants or fruit, leaving a soft spot where they’ve fed. They commonly cause cosmetic damage like bruises or discoloration.
This is bad news for farmers because stores typically don’t want “ugly” fruit, but it might not affect home gardeners as much. However, stink bugs can carry diseases that infect plants, and this is where the real damage happens. Some of the listed pest species occasionally eat other pest insects, but not enough to be considered garden allies.
Black and Red Stink Bug
Black and Red stink bug – Cosmopepla lintneriana. Source: Gilles Gonthier
Also called the twice-stabbed stink bug, Cosmopepla lintneriana insects are no more than 6 millimeters long and have a notable black and red pattern that’s easy to identify. These insects are black with a red line and diamond at the top of their shield and two red spots in the center. They can be found throughout North America and part of Mexico, feeding on asparagus, oat, and mint seeds.
Black Stink Bug
Black Stink Bug – Proxys punctulatus. Source: treegrow
With pointed shoulders and little spikes all over its back, the species Proxys punctulatus looks like it’s ready to puncture you with its angular body. It’s solid black with a white spot and white and black legs. It’s a common species throughout the southern US down to Brazil and the Caribbean islands.
They target cotton, soybeans, and citrus. They eat insect larvae that feed on cotton, but that’s only so it can have more cotton to itself!
Blue Shield Bug
Blue Shield bug – Zicrona caerulea. Source: GeeC
These shiny insects in the family Pentatomidae are pretty enough to want to keep it around, but they’re a pest in grasslands and woodlands where there’s low vegetation. You can find this one, Zicrona caerulea, throughout Britain and North America where trees are scarce. It has a blue-green metallic body with black accents.
Brown Marmorated Stink Bug
Brown Marmorated stink bug – Halyomorpha halys. Source: Gilles San Martin
A bug so terrible they turned it into a four-letter word – BMSB – you don’t want to see the marmorated stink bug around! Halyomorpha halys is native to eastern Asia but has traveled the world and established itself throughout Europe, eastern North America, Australia, and Chile by hanging out on imported goods. It’s a highly invasive species that overwinters in structures, so you might find them in your home once it gets cold.
It’s larger than most stink bug species, growing up to 17 millimeters in length. It has a mottled coloration of light and yellow-brown with red stripes and a white band along its legs and on its five-segmented antennae, but its five nymphal stages give it a lot of variation throughout its life cycle. It loves fruit trees and vegetables, making them a problem in many orchards, farms, and backyards.
Brown Stink Bug
Brown Stink Bug – Euschistus servus. Source: Judy Gallagher
You might mistake Euschistus servus, known as the brown stink bug, for the brown marmorated stink bug at first since their mottled brown appearance is similar. However, brown stink bugs have a more yellow-grey tone to them and lack red.
Euschistus servus can be found seasonally throughout the US and Canada, but the brown stink bug hangs around all year long in the southern states since the weather is warmer there. They like to eat seeds, grains, nuts, and fruits and will eat weeds while overwintering. Their favorite food are peaches, so keep an eye out for them on your peach trees!
Conchuela Stink Bug
Conchuela stink bug – Chlorochroa ligata. Source: Nick:Wood
The species Chlorochroa ligata should theoretically be easy to identify, but the fact that different stages can look like two species makes it difficult! They’re either light green with a yellow dot and shield outline, or black with a red dot and shield outline. Actually, the “black” is dark green but it often looks black.
These types of stink bugs have rounded shoulders, and the bottom of the shield has a crescent shape. They live throughout North America and have an interesting diet of cotton, grapes, mesquite, mustards, peas, prickly pear, sage, tomatoes, and yucca.
Dusky Stink Bug
Dusky Stink Bug – Euschistus tristigmus. Source: Judy Gallagher
This is another mottled brown stink bug that can be tricky to identify, but Euschistus tristigmas tries to make it easy with its noticeably pointed shoulders and narrow head. The coloration is similar to the brown marmorated stink bug, but it’s much pointier. Remember how we said location is often a determining factor? This one is picky, living on apple, cherry trees, peach, pear, and plum trees in the eastern portion of North America.
Bifida stink bug – Edessa bifida. Source: jwinfred
This bug doesn’t have a nickname, but the white heart-shaped dot on its back would make “Love Bug” a contender if it wasn’t for its tendency to destroy cotton field crops! It can be found in the southern US down to northern South America. Aside from the white heart, the brown V and green shoulders and triangle will make this one easy to identify.
Elf Shoe Stink Bug
Elf Shoe Stink Bug – Menecles insertus. Source: treegrow
It’s unclear how Menecles insertus got such a cute nickname. Perhaps it’s because their light brown legs have dark brown “shoes!” If you can’t see its feet, it will be hard to tell from the other mottled brown stink bugs with striped edges. Sound familiar yet? Expect to see this one hanging out on fruit trees in most parts of the US and some parts of Canada. It’s more commonly found in the southern states.
Euschistus quadrator. Source: Russ Ottens, University of Georgia
This stink bug might lack a nickname because of how difficult it can be. It prefers legumes like clover and vetch, but it also likes cotton, soybeans, and corn. That gives it plenty of food choices, but it’s found on a wide variety of plants it doesn’t prefer, so it’s hard to narrow down where exactly you’ll find it. At least it has a specific location in Mexico, Texas, Louisiana, Georgia, and Florida!
It’s also difficult to identify because it has the common stink bug pattern that makes it look like the elf shoe stink bug and brown marmorated stink bug, but this one has pointy shoulders with black tips. However, the young nymph stage starts out as brown and red, then develops black and white, then turns lime green and brown before settling into its color palette of browns.
Green Burgundy Stink Bug
Green Burgundy stink bug – Banasa dimidiata. Source: urtica
Banasa dimidiata is green and burgundy and is classed among other arboreal stink bugs or tree stink bugs. Surprised? It’s mostly green, and the burgundy color forms a green triangle in the middle. The shoulders are rounded and it has a bright red head and antennae. It’s mostly found in Oregon on cane berries, English holly, lilac, mountain ash, and arborvitae. Other Banasa stink bugs, like the jade stink bug mentioned later, prefer conifer plants like juniper.
Green Stink Bug
Green Stink Bug – Chinavia halaris. Source: pverdonk
The green stink bug can be difficult to identify online and in person! It’s scientifically called Chinavia halaris, as well as Chinavia hilare, and was once classified as Acrosternum hilaris (or hilare). These common insects are on the larger side, growing up to 19 millimeters long, and are solid green with either yellow spots or a yellow-hued green. This mostly depends on whether or not you’re looking at adult stink bugs or a green stink bug nymph.
Green-colored stink bugs are easy to confuse, so it’s down to location, plants, and size when identifying. It’s the most common kind of stink bug in the US, so you can find it in most states – especially the southeastern United States – as well as in the southern parts of Canada. It prefers young trees, shrubs, weeds, and vines, but once these plants mature, they head for soybeans.
Harlequin bug – Murgantia histrionica. Source: Thomas Shahan
It’s pretty easy to identify Murgantia histrionica from the beginning since its eggs are striped with white and black markings, and the adult harlequin bug has a cool black and red pattern. Its body is almost a perfect oval, and it has pretty short antennae.
The harlequin bug is almost exclusive to Mexico and the southern US and love cruciferous vegetables of any kind, from cabbage to to mustard to radish and anything related to them. If those aren’t available, however, they’ll settle for almost anything. Nightshades (potatoes, tomatoes, etc.), okra, beets, beans, and fruit trees are usually their next pick.
Jade Stink Bug
Juniper Stink Bug – Banasa euchlora. Source: Anita363
We mentioned this one earlier. Banasa euchlora is the Banasa family member that loves juniper, as it’s classed among other arboreal stink bugs. In fact, you might see people refer to this one as the juniper stink bug. The shoulders and tip of the shield are slightly pointed. It’s mostly bright green with yellow spots and black feet. You can spot this one almost anywhere in the US on a juniper tree near you.
Mormidea lugens. Source: Judy Gallagher
This stink bug is mostly in eastern North America, with a few sightings in California, and can also be found in Mexico and the Caribbean islands. The shield shape has a rounded point, and it’s medium brown with tan lines on its back. It can be found in most grasses like timothy grass, deer-tongue grass, or sedge.
Redbanded Stink Bug
Redbanded stink bug – Piezodorus guildinii. Source: Russ Ottens, University of Georgia
These green stink bugs, Piezodorus guildinii, get their name from the noticeable red band that goes across the top of the shield and along the edges. It can be a bit complicated to spot them, though, since some don’t develop that handy identifier. The tip of the shield comes to a “squoval” point, or a rounded square edge.
This stink bug has a major pest status in Central and South America on important agricultural crops. It wasn’t spotted in the US until the 1970s and wasn’t considered a problem until the early 2000s. They can be found in the southern US on legumes of any kind and are a major problem for soybean farmers.
Red-Shouldered Stink Bug
Red-shouldered Stink Bug – Thyanta custator. Source: Judy Gallagher
Thyanta custator, or the red-shouldered stink bug, is easily confused with Piezodorus guildinii and even occasionally share the same nickname of redbanded stink bugs. They’re either solid lime green with reddish-brown feet and antennae, or they have a red line across their shoulders. They have grey eggs, which makes identification much easier.
They can be found in most parts of Canada and the US but are more common on the eastern side. They aren’t picky eaters and they are the most common stink bugs found on beans, corn, peaches, pistachios, and cereal crops like wheat.
Rice Stink Bug
Rice stink bug – Oebalus pugnax. Source: cotinis
Oebalus pugnax loves rice and is a major pest of agricultural crops, like rice crops throughout the US, Brazil, and the Caribbean islands. They are common stink bugs found in the southern states, but they’ve been seen in eastern states and as far west as Arizona. It also likes rice relatives like corn, sedge, and johnson grass. It has an elongated arrowhead-shaped body and is mostly solid straw-colored, tan, or light brown, with a triangle in a lighter shade on its back.
Say’s Stink Bug
Say’s stink bug – Chlorochroa sayi. Source: Vahe Martirosyan
Chlorochroa sayi is yet another you might confuse with other bugs, mostly other stink bugs, thanks to its solid green color with a red outline and dot, although the secondary color may be yellow instead of green. It’s usually found in the western part of the US from California to Texas with some sightings in Idaho.
It’s a major pest of agricultural crops like legumes and grasses, including alfalfa, barley, oats, red clover, wheat, rye, and weeds. If nothing else is available, you might find it in vegetable gardens.
Southern Green Stink Bug
Southern Green stink bug – Nezara viridula. Source: stanzebla
Nezara viridula could earn a medal for being the world’s most hated stink bug. It’s a pest in Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, North America, and South America. It prefers fruit and ornamental plants and trees, field crops, weeds, and vegetables—that’s pretty much everything you can grow! It’s a bright yellow-green, although some may be darker shades. It has five-segmented antennae. Eggs are light yellow or pink, and nymphal stages are black and red.
Beneficial Stink Bugs
Not every species of stink bug in the family Pentatomidae is bad news. There are some species that prefer to target pests and other insects with their sucking mouthparts instead of plants! These assassin bugs go after caterpillars and beetle larvae. Some of them will still cause plant damage, but it shouldn’t be enough to ruin your garden, and you can consider keeping these around for pest control purposes.
Anchor Stink Bug
Anchor stink bug – Stiretrus anchorago. Source: lfelliott
It’s pretty easy to spot Stiretrus anchorago thanks to the distinctive anchor shape on the bottom of the shield. You can find them on soybeans, pole beans, and potatoes feeding on crop pests and other insects.
Florida Predatory Stink Bug
Florida Predatory Stink Bug – Euthyrhynchus floridanus. Source: Judy Gallagher
Euthyrhynchus floridanus is predominantly found in Florida, but can also be spotten in other states in the southeast. These are predatory stink bugs that eat a host of pests and many beetles including velvetbean caterpillars, leaf beetles, walnut caterpillars, various weeviles, the Colorado potato beetle, and some moths.
The best part: they eat southern green stink bugs! They vary in appearance, ranging from dark green to black and having either three red dots or a red lower half.
Perillus strigipes. Source: Judy Gallagher
This stink bug is easy to recognize thanks to the diamond-shaped red or orange lines on its back. It can be found in the eastern part of the US and as far west as Texas. It has the typical predatory stink bug diet of caterpillars and beetles.
Rough Stink Bug
Four-humped Stink Bug – Brochymena quadripustulata. Source: Judy Gallagher
Scientifically known as Brochymena quadripustulata, rough stink bugs closely resemble the brown marmorated stink bug, but you can tell the difference because the rough stink bug has bumpy shoulders. It’s also called the four-humped stink bug because there are four distinct humps between its neck and shoulder.
The rough stink bug also has red dots all over its mottled brown body that is perfect for hiding among tree bark. Rough stink bugs eat caterpillars and beetles, but also like to eat the leaves and seeds of many species of trees, but their feeding habits don’t usually cause much damage to be considered a threat.
Spined Soldier Bug
Spined Soldier Bug – Podisus maculiventris. Source: Wedontneedfeatherstofly
If you see stink bug eggs lined up perfectly in two long rows, it’s probably among the Podisus maculiventris species of stink bug, known commonly as the spined soldier bug. The adult spined soldier bug is light brown with subtle purple undertones and spiky shoulders that point outward.
The spined soldier bug is a predator that enjoys about 90 different types of insects, including beetles, corn borers, moths, armyworms, cabbage loopers, and various caterpillars. Spined soldier bugs feed on plant juice when insect pests aren’t around, but they cause very little plant damage.
The spined soldier bug is found in most parts of North America, Mexico, and the Bahamas. Spined soldier bugs are attracted to solanaceous species, and they can take out various garden pests. The main diet of a spined soldier bug is species of pests, with many species of beetles included.
Two-Spotted Stink Bug
Two-Spotted stink bug – Perillus bioculatus. Source: André Garant
Perillus bioculatus, known as the two-spotted stink bug, has two distinct patterns that are quite similar, featuring a keyhole shape in the center of the shield, often with reddish-orange markings. One is black and red, and the other is brown, black, and tan with multicolored legs. If you see them together, you might mistake them as different bugs!
They have the typical diet of caterpillars and beetles. They’re native to North America but can now be found in northern India and eastern Europe.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What bugs are mistaken for stink bugs?
A: Insects like kissing bugs, boxelder bugs, and western conifer seed bugs are mistaken for species of stink bugs because they stink when you squish them! However, they have no relation to stink bugs.
Q: Are stink bugs harmful?
A: Stink bugs don’t often bite and aren’t considered to be harmful, although you may find their odor to be offensive.
Q: What is the difference between a stink bug and a shield bug?
A: There is no difference—they’re called stink bugs because of their smell and shield bugs because of their shape.
Q: How many different stink bugs are there?
A: There are about 5,000 stink bugs around the world, with 300 or so of those found in the US.
Q: What happens if a stink bug bites you?
A: Nothing will happen because stink bugs don’t bite. However, some people may have an allergic reaction when holding them, especially if the stink bug releases its stench.
Q: What purpose do stink bugs serve?
A: Predatory species of stink bugs clean up the caterpillars and beetle larvae that are harming your veggies. Pest stink bugs are mostly a nuisance for destroying crops, but wounded crops help feed other insects like ants and wasps.
Q: What do predatory stink bugs look like?
A: Predatory stink bugs look like all the other species with their distinctive shield shape and antennae. The look of each type will depend on the species, but most species are brown, green, or black.
Q: Should I worry about stink bugs?
A: Stink bugs can’t cause structural damage, and only cause cosmetic damage. So, you really only need to worry if the bugs multiply faster than you can control them.