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We Had Stink Bugs in Our RV, Here’s How We Got Rid of Them

Wondering how to get rid of stink bugs? We speak from experience when we say that you want to keep any bugs out of your RV, especially those with the word “stink” in their name. 

Consider yourself lucky if you’ve never had an encounter with one of these insects. They’re everything you hate about skunks and flies packed into one awful creature. Whether you want to know how to get rid of stink bugs from your RV or residential house, we’ve got a few tips.

What Are Stink Bugs? 

Stink bugs first started appearing in 1996 when they arrived in Pennsylvania. They’re an invasive species originally from Asia, and because they have no natural predator, they have traveled their way across the continental United States over the past 20 years.

These insects look as ugly as they smell, with a grayish-brown and six legs. Their triangular-shaped body is about three-quarters of an inch long. They’ll typically find their way indoors in the early fall as temperatures start to dip. 

While they’re not dangerous to humans, you’ll want to avoid touching them. This is primarily due to the reason they get their name. Like a skunk, they’ll often release a very unpleasant odor as a defense mechanism. 

It smells similar to what you would expect if you mixed a woody, oily, and cilantro-like smell with ammonia. Even if you have a strong nose, we highly suggest not touching them with your bare hands. Use a tissue or napkin to move them back outside.

Get Rid of Stink Bugs in Your RV

What Attracts Stink Bugs to Your House or RV?

Stink bugs look for easy access, bright lights, and near nature. RVs and rural homes work great for going through a phase known as diapause. This is a period of their life cycle where they’re inactive. They enter this phase in the winter when food is unavailable. A stink bug can slow down its metabolism and survive for months at a time.

Once it finds shelter in place, it releases a pheromone to alert and attract other stink bugs to the party. The result is a massive gathering of stink bugs in your RV or home that you have to address. It can be a stinky situation!

Close up on a stink bug
Keep your RV stink bug free with some simple tips and tricks.

How to Get Rid of Stink Bugs

While stink bugs may not physically harm you, they can smell up the place quickly. You’ll want to take action immediately to avoid any further bugs showing up for the party. So roll up those sleeves and pinch your nose; it’s time to get rid of some stink bugs.

Stink Bug Traps

If you’ve ever had a fly infestation, you’re likely familiar with sticky traps. They look like double-sided tape strands that you can hang from the ceiling. They typically have a glue-like substance that attracts insects to them. 

The stink bugs will fly into the trap and get stuck. Once you’ve captured all the bugs, you can safely dispose of the paper in the trash and enjoy a bug-free space.

Kill the Stink Bugs (Without Releasing The Stink!)

Grab an old cup and fill it with a soap-water mixture. Use a fly swatter to knock the stink bugs into the cup of water.

They will drown in the mix and not leave any odors. The key is to make it swift because you don’t want the stink bugs to feel threatened and release their defensive scent.

Repel Away with Smells

Stink bugs, like many insects, don’t like strong scents. So, after you close up any openings where they may get in, use dryer sheets to rub over your window screens. The stronger and smellier the dryer sheets, the better.

Some people have had success with killing several stink bugs outside. The smell from the dead stink bug warns others to flee the scene and find a safer place to stay for the next few months.

Stink bug crawling on a persons hand
Getting rid of stink bugs without releasing their smell can be quite tricky!

Why We Don’t Recommend Insecticides

You may think it’s a good idea to use insecticides; we want to caution you against doing so. When a stink bug dies, it smells. You want them to leave without releasing any more of their odorous scent. 

Insecticides will cause stink bugs to die and release their scent wherever they land. If they die inside your house or RV, you might inadvertently amplify the situation.

Pro Tip: The only thing worse than stink bugs are cockroaches! In fact, We Had Cockroaches in Our RV, This Is How We Got Rid of Them.

Look for Eggs & Nests

The good thing is that stink bugs don’t typically lay eggs in the winter during the diapause phase. This means that you usually won’t have to battle a long-term infestation. And as soon as they finish their diapause, they’ll leave to seek food and a safe place to lay their eggs.

Stink bugs will often lay their eggs outdoors on the underside of plants and other vegetation. So if you continually battle these creatures, you can look under the leaves on any vegetation around your property (or in your houseplants). If the issue becomes a big enough problem, you may need to contact a pest control specialist.

What Repels & Keeps Stink Bugs Away? 

One of the best ways to prevent a stinky situation is to repel stink bugs in the first place. If you can keep them out of your house or RV, you won’t have to put up with their smells. 

1. Soapy Solution

A soapy solution can drown them and absorb the smell. A damp towel over a lawn chair will attract the stink bugs throughout the night. In the morning, you can then shake them off the towel and into the bucket of water. 

If the towel doesn’t work, attach a stocking to the end of a vacuum. You can then turn on the vacuum, and the hose will act as a filter to block the stink bugs from entering the canister. You can then dump the stocking into the bucket of soapy water and avoid the foul odors.

2. Garlic Spray

Ironically, stink bugs don’t enjoy strong odors. You can soak three ounces of finely chopped or minced garlic in two tablespoons of mineral oil. To get the best results, you’ll want to let this mixture soak for at least 24 hours. 

While you’re letting the garlic soak, add one pint of water to a jar with a lid. Then add an ounce of dish soap and the strained garlic to the mixture.

Before applying this spray, you’ll want to make sure you dilute it with a tablespoon or two of the garlic oil with a pint of water. Use a spray bottle and spray your plants with garlic oil. Apply it generously at least once a week, especially during the later summer and early fall.

Woman using spray bottle to spray indoor plants.
Spray your plants with garlic oil to get rid of stink bugs!

3. Diatomaceous Earth

You can pick up a bag or two of diatomaceous earth from your local hardware or gardening center. Sprinkle it around plants, windows, doorways, and anywhere you’ve spotted stink bugs. 

This material is natural and won’t harm humans or pets but will keep the stink bugs and other unwanted insects away.

4. Essential Oils

If you have some essential oils on hand, you can create a mixture of clove, lemongrass, and spearmint oil. Stink bugs hate the strong smells associated with cloves, lemongrass, spearmint, wintergreen, geranium, pennyroyal, and rosemary. 

Any of these scents applied in an area will send stink bugs packing. This can help you avoid them dying in your home and creating an even worse situation.

Essential oil set up
Essential oils keep your home sweet smelling and stink bug free!

5. Seal Any Holes in Your Home or RV

Stink bugs typically get into your home or RV through small holes. If you leave the door open or you have rips in your window screens, they’ll find them. These tiny insects will squeeze their way in through some tight places. 

So make sure you do a thorough inspection once you start seeing them appear. The sooner you can take action to seal any holes, the less impact they’ll have on your home or RV.

Pro Tip: Keep your camper critter free with this guide on How to Get Rid of Pantry Moths in Your Home or RV Camper

How to get rid of stink bugs naturally

Will Stink Bugs Go Away?

Luckily, stink bugs remain in their diapause forever. Depending on where you live, they typically enter diapause from October through February or March. If you’re in a warmer climate, however, this phase may be shifted on the calendar.

However, you likely won’t want to tolerate them in your home or RV for that long. So you must take action at the first signs of them. You can follow these tips and tricks to get rid of stink bugs. Doing so can ensure you can get back to enjoying a fresh-smelling RV.

Have you ever had to battle with stink bugs? Tell us about your experience in the comments!

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About Tom and Caitlin Morton

Tom & Caitlin Morton of Mortons on the Move gave up the stationary life for one where they are constantly on the move. They are full-time travelers, television hosts, and digital media producers.
They left their jobs, sold their house and possessions, and hit the road in September 2015 in their full-time “home on wheels”. Since then they have traveled the US, Canada, and even internationally by RV.
Now, they are Discovery Channel & PBS TV Co-stars of “Go North” on Amazon Prime Video, co-founders and instructors of RV Masterclass, and contributing authors for and an Arizona travel guide.

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Jeryl Benge

Saturday 13th of May 2023

I have a few in my RV ( bought used) I was going to just bomb the place and make sure no spiders or any other bugs. I just throw them out, I've smelt worse things but It's an annoyance.


Monday 7th of March 2022

I just gently pick-up the stink bugs and throw them out the RV door.


Saturday 5th of March 2022

I grew up in San Antonio in the 50's and there were stink bugs and blister bugs and other assorted fun bugs even then!