Unfortunately, the invasive brown marmorated stink bug has been pestering Massachusetts residents for several years. Since these bugs often invade homes in large number, many people assume that stink bugs indulge in swarming behavior. But this is not the case, as stink bugs are solitary insects that do not form colonies or travel in herds; instead, large amounts of individual stink bugs often gravitate toward one single food source within a home or garden. Also, in order for stink bugs to survive the winter, they invade northeastern homes en masse during the fall season. These factors make stink bugs a significant nuisance pest within Massachusetts homes.

While many stink bug infestations require professional help to eradicate, these bugs do not cause damage to structures. Of course, these bugs will emit a disagreeable odor when they feel threatened or when they become squished, but according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the smelley compounds emitted by these bugs are largely harmless to humans. However, this may not always be the case, as adverse reactions to stink bug compounds have been described in medical literature. As it happens, serious medical issues can result from having certain body parts exposed to the toxic compounds emitted by stink bugs.

Although stink bugs produce and expel a toxic chemical for the purpose of defense, this chemical is considered mostly harmless to humans. There exists only one report that describes an adverse skin reaction in a human following exposure to stink bug toxins. But medical professionals believe that stink bugs can be harmful to any human if their toxins make contact with the eyes. For example, one case study described a man who nearly lost sight in his right eye after his eye made contact with a stink bug’s bodily fluids. The 74 year old man developed severe inflammation in his cornea (keratitis) and the visual acuity in his right eye diminished to 2/60 as opposed to his usual 20/20. Eventually, the man’s eye healed with topical antibiotic and steroid treatments, but the doctors who authored the study claim that anyone who suspects that their eye/s may have come into contact with stink bug toxins should clean the affected eye/s immediately before seeking medical assistance.

Have you ever caught a whiff of stink bug toxins?