Are Those “Stink Bugs” in Your Home?

Since September, I have been awakened from a dead sleep countless times by an obnoxious buzzing in my ear and, even more unsettling, the feeling that something is crawling on top of my head. Although groggy, I usually realize pretty quickly that it’s just a stink bug, grab it, and toss it across the room. Admittedly, this method of disposal did backfire once when the stink bug turned out to be a paper wasp; a regrettable mistake.

So what are these annoying insects? Why are they in our homes?

 Consperse stink bug
Figure 1. The Consperse stink bug (Euschistus conspersus) Photo: Mike Quinn,

You may be surprised to find out that these insects are not actually stink bugs. Stink bugs are in the family Pentatomidae and have bodies shaped like shields (Figure 1). The insect in question is actually in the family Coreidae, or the leaf-footed bugs. The common name “leaf-footed” refers to the enlarged leaf-like structure on their hind legs (Figure 2). The genus and species of this particular leaf-footed bug is Leptoglossus occidentalis whose common name is the western conifer seed bug (WCSB).

Although you may be familiar with the WCSB because of its presence in your house, this insect is actually a forest dweller. The WCSB feeds on seeds, developing cones and the needles of pine trees, as well as Douglas-fir.

Western conifer seed bug
Figure 2. The Western conifer seed bug; notice the leaf-like structure on the hind legs. Photo:

The WCSB has a single generation a year. Adults emerge in late May or early June. At this time, they feed on one-year-old cones and inflorescences (small flower clusters). Eggs are laid in rows on conifer needles and hatch within 10 days. The WCSB is a “true” bug in the order Hemiptera and does not go through complete metamorphosis as a fly or butterfly would. In other words, there is no larval stage. Instead, the young look very similar to the adults, only smaller, and are called nymphs rather than larvae (Figure 3).

The WCSB goes through five nymphal instars (stages) prior to the final adult stage. The first instar feeds on needles and cone scales while older nymphs will feed on developing seeds. The WCSB reaches adulthood around mid-August and will continue to feed on ripening seeds until early fall, after which time it will begin to seek overwintering sites. This is when you may begin seeing them in your home. The WCSB will overwinter under bark, in dead and dry logs, in bird and rodent nests, and of course, in buildings. With its flattened body shape, it can enter a house through most small openings. Once inside the house, they tend to become active and conspicuous when warm.

Nymphal stages and final adult form of the Western conifer seed bug
Figure 3. Two nymphal stages (on the left) and the final adult form (far right) of the Western conifer seed bug. Photo: Brandon Woo

Although annoying, the WCSB is not harmful to people. It does not bite, sting, eat wood, or breed indoors. It does emit an unpleasant odor when disturbed, but this is not harmful to anything but our noses. The tendency to think that WCSB is harmful may be due to a case of mistaken identity, as leaf-footed bugs have a similar appearance to assassin bugs (family Reduviidae), which do bite. There are morphological differences that distinguish WCSB from assassin bugs; the most obvious is the leaf-like structure found on the hind legs of the seed bug, which assassin bugs lack (Figure 4).

Assassin bug
Figure 4. Assassin bug Sinea diadema; notice the lack of the leaf-like structure on the hind legs, which the Western conifer seed bug possesses. Photo: Michael Hughes,

The WCSB can be a pest to the forest industry, particularly in seed orchards, as it can result in a substantial loss of seed crop. However, in a general forested setting, there are typically plenty of seeds to go around and there is no lack of regeneration in our forests as a result of these bugs.

So, is there any way to control the WCSB? The best method of control is prevention via mechanical exclusion. This of course would involve filling in any cracks around the house where they may be getting in. Replacing loose screens, windows and doors; caulk gaps; and screen your fireplace, attic and wall vents, and other openings — basically, blocking all points of entry. Unfortunately, if your house is anything like mine, this is a near impossible endeavor. I opt for the vacuum cleaner and just suck them up.

By Melissa Fischer, forest health specialist, Washington State Department of Natural Resources, Northeast Region, 

Wildfire Corner: Start Planning for the next Disaster

Source: Emergency Mgmt Ontario, Canada
It’s winter. Are you ready for the next disaster? It could be a wildfire, a major winter storm, an earthquake, or even a train derailment that spews harmful chemicals. In this and future articles we will look at ways to be prepared for disasters. There are some simple steps we can take now to reduce the impacts on us and our families when the next disaster occurs — whether it is natural or manmade.

Communicate with Family and Friends

Let’s talk first about communicating with your family and knowing everyone is safe during and immediately after a disaster. During a one of these events cell phones and land lines may be disrupted. With this potential problem in mind, develop a backup plan and ensure that everyone close to you knows how to use it.

Here’s an example of a post-disaster communications plan :

  1. Call each other on cell phones, but if this fails…
  2. Text each other (texting uses less bandwidth and may work when voice calls cannot get through).
  3. Place land line calls.
  4. Get in touch with your designated out-of-area contact who act as your communications hub. (Local call networks can become overloaded following a major incident but you may still be able to reach a long distance number. Ensure that everyone in your family knows to call this number and give that person a status update.)

Family members also can use other channels—email and social media—to communicate with each other. The most important thing to do now is develop a plan and share it with all family members and others with whom you want to stay in contact during and after an emergency.

Stay Informed

Whether you are at home or off on vacation, you will want to know whether your home was impacted by a disaster. Most counties have some type of Emergency Notification System to alert you of time-sensitive general and emergency information. These notifications do not always go to everyone but they try to target a geographic region based on zip codes, street names or the entire county. Reverse 9-1-1 is one example of this type of emergency notification. In the county where I live it is called Alert Spokane to see the Spokane County system, which offers to send notifications to an email address or a text them to a mobile phone. For these notification systems to work, you need to register with your county’s Department of Emergency Management, usually via its website. Click here for a list of county emergency websites in Washington state.

Remember, one of the first things to do before the next disaster is to develop a plan to communicate with your family and stay informed. How devoting a few minutes of your holiday gatherings to get this done?

In the next article we will talk about building a preparedness kit.

For more information on being prepared for the next disaster visit the website of the state Emergency Management Division.

by Guy Gifford, DNR Land Owner Assistance Forester, Fire Prevention and Firewise Coordinator–Northeast Region 

Fishers in Managed Woodlands of Western Washington

Fisher. Photo. John Jacobsen/Wash. Dept. of Fish and Wildlife.

Predators. The word conjures up visions of fierce cougars or grizzly bears sneaking around in the dark looking for human-sized prey animals. But what about the more diminutive predators, such as fishers, that eat small mammals, fish and birds?

Fishers are members of the family Mustelidae, which also includes weasels, marten, mink, otter, wolverine and several other predators. These are a remarkable assemblage of similarly built critters: short legs, sharp eyes and teeth, highly sensitive noses and explosive speed and agility. They are adept at catching many different prey species, from shrews, mice and birds to fish and, in the case of wolverines, deer. They also a diverse lot with many different lifestyles that can include climbing trees, skittering through forest undergrowth, cruising high mountain snow fields, burrowing underground or rapidly swimming after prey.

Fishers are a unique forest-dwelling mustelid. They are a medium-sized weasel, about the size of a house cat. They are a rich chocolate-dark brown in color and reside in low- to mid-elevation forest habitats. With a body length of about 36” include tail, and weighing between 8 and 10 pounds, fishers are slightly larger than marten, which tend to live at higher elevations.

Fishers disappeared from Washington forests decades ago due to overharvesting for their fur, habitat destruction and their vulnerability to trapping (weasels are suckers for a good scent lure). After wildlife surveys in the 1990s and early 2000s detected no fishers in Washington, a state recovery plan identified the need to reintroduce these animals to the state.

In 2008, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), US Geologic Survey, Conservation Northwest, British Columbia Ministry of Environment and National Park Service combined efforts to organize a fisher reintroduction release in Olympic National Park. Another set of releases in the South Cascades began in the fall of 2015. All of the released animals were relocated from British Columbia in cooperation with the BC Trappers Association. In 2017, reproduction was documented near Mount Rainier National Park. It is shaping up to be a remarkable success story!

Habitat and Needs

Fishers need forested habitats with a rich understory, snags and down logs to support the small mammal populations they prey upon. Fortunately, managed woodlands can provide all of these habitat features.

fisher habitat in western Washington
Excellent fisher habitat in western Washington.  Photo: John Jacobsen/Wash. Dept. of Fish and Wildlife

It is hoped that successful reintroduction of the fisher to Washington state will result in sustainable populations across the landscape. Because managed forests are capable of providing suitable fisher habitat, small forest landowners on the west slopes of the Cascades have a direct interest in learning about the habitat needs of this amazing animal. To encourage landowners to take part in assisting the success of this species, the US Fish and Wildlife Service, in cooperation with WDFW, offers a program in which landowners agree to protect fishers on their lands. In return, the landowner receives protection from any future land use restrictions that could result from the presence of fishers. This arrangement, a Candidate Conservation Agreement with Assurance (CCAA), is straightforward and many landowners, large and small, have already signed on. Click here for more information on the CCAA program.

Fishers are no threat to normal workings of family forest lands (unless you happen to be a mouse, squirrel or chicken!) and they can provide a natural control over damaging rodents in tree farms. Returning this animal to our ecosystem will restore some of the remarkable richness of Washington’s forests.

For more information on the fisher and CCAAs, please visit the WDFW website, or contact Gary Bell at (360) 902-2412.

And as always, feel free to contact me with your questions, stories or photos of wildlife on your forested woodland.

by Ken Bevis, DNR Stewardship Wildlife Biologist,

New Cooperative Project will Benefit Southwest Washington Landowners

DNR Stewardship Forester Julie Sackett
DNR Stewardship Forester Julie Sackett advises a small forest landowner in southwest Washington. Photo: Ken Bevis/DNR.

Washington State University (WSU) Extension will soon hire a forest stewardship educator, who will help landowners plan and execute various management activities to achieve their goals and reduce risks.

Based out of the WSU Lewis County Extension office in Chehalis, this unique position will serve throughout southwest Washington, providing organized educational opportunities landowners with the purpose of significantly increasing the amount of forest land being managed sustainably under written forest stewardship plans.

The three-year project is funded by the U.S. Forest Service Landscape-scale Restoration Grant program, awarded to the Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR), and cooperatively implemented by DNR, WSU Extension and the Grays Harbor Conservation District. This joint project is a ‘surround-sound approach’ to landowner assistance, providing on-the-ground technical assistance as well as educational events such as field days, demonstrations, workshops, and the flagship Coached Planning – Forest Stewardship Shortcourse. Here is a list of practical examples of services you can expect:

  • Informational workshops that help you understand “What is a healthy forest and how do I know?”
  • Advice on planting trees and tending a young forest
  • Thinning trees to improve forest health, tree growth, and aesthetics
  • Pruning trees for wood quality, disease prevention, and attractiveness of the woods
  • Improving wildlife habitat and controlling animal damage
  • Advice on hiring a consulting forester or a logging contractor
  • Identifying native trees and shrubs and reducing noxious weeds
  • Writing a Forest Stewardship Management Plan

The new forest stewardship educator is expected to begin in 2018. In the meantime, if you have questions or need technical assistance, contact Andy Perleberg, or Julie Sackett,

Southwest Washington Family Forest Facts

Approximately 54,000 family forest landowners own and manage 1.1 million acres in southwest Washington, making this group the largest private land user group in the region. Family forests are typically located in lower elevation watersheds, adjacent to streams and rivers and often in the rural‐urban interface. In addition to their critical contributions to public amenities and commodities (namely timber), these forestlands are essential for clean air and water, wildlife habitat and for the economic vitality of rural communities. Annually in Washington state, the forest sector provides over 45,000 jobs, generates $16 billion in gross business revenue, and pays out $2 billion in wages and $100 million in tax receipts. Southwest Washington has been identified as the most critical region in Washington state for the production of timber resources and is a major contributor to salmon recovery.

Getting Back to the Land

Load of logs from the Mack property
Load of logs from the Mack property heading to the mill. Photo: John Stuart.

After five years of helping assemble Forest Stewardship Notes, this is my last newsletter before I join the happy crew of new retirees at the end of the year. Andy Perleberg asked me to write a few words of reflection for the occasion, and what could be more apt than describing the impact our forest stewardship classes have had on my own personal experience as a forest landowner. After 20 years with WSU Extension, I will truly miss the day-to-day work with colleagues from DNR and WSU. But, I’ve got to say I am ecstatic about having a lot more time to play in my own 40 acres of woods here in the northeast corner of the state.

I feel very lucky to have landed in this spot, considering that I was a mere 23 years old when I signed the purchase papers for the property—a back-to-the-lander wannabe from the 70’s. My husband and I built a house here, raised a family (and a large garden) and have watched our forest grow for more than 40 years now. John and I both did forestry contract work for the first 20 years of our careers so we probably had more woods know-how than the average landowners. Even so, one of the most eye-opening experiences for us was taking a Forest Stewardship Coached Planning course as participants about 10 years ago. (Yes, I’d led this course locally at least four times already—but somehow had never got around to writing a stewardship plan for our place… It was clearly time to get the rest of the family involved.)

Logging techniques 1980/present
Left: Pony logging in the 1980s. Photo: Carol Mack Right: ATV with logging arch. Photo: Carol Mack

Like most timberland for sale at the time, our place had just been logged when we bought it. We knew from the beginning we wanted to grow big trees back as fast as possible to improve wildlife habitat and forest health, as well as to create beautiful woods for our family to enjoy. We did a lot of thinning and tree-planting over the years to that end, including three small commercial sales. As the diameter of the thinned logs increased, John graduated from using a draft pony to a Belgian draft horse, and more recently, to an ATV or tractor-pulled logging arch. We hired a truck driver with a self-loader to haul our logs to a local mill. Although we never made much more than our wages off the sales, doing it ourselves allowed us to fit the work between other jobs. (And, it was a lot of fun, mostly.)

But even though we thought we knew what we were doing, having to actually write our long-term property goals down on paper precipitated a whole lot of soul-searching and discussion for us—just as I’d witnessed my class participants go through many times. The coached planning protocol encouraged us to not only clarify our somewhat nebulous goals more explicitly, but come up with some measurable ways to chart our progress towards them.

Pileated woodpecker on house
Pileated woodpecker on house eating western conifer seed bugs from siding. Photo: John Stuart

My husband is an avid birder, and especially enjoys spying on the local pileated woodpecker families in the neighborhood, an icon of northwest old growth. But as he learned more about their habitat needs, he came to realize that their presence was likely a result of being surrounded on three sides by over 600 acres of commercial timberland with abundant large trees and snags. We knew this neighboring landscape was destined to be logged in the near future. And that sparked the idea of managing a portion of our place as “core habitat” to help protect these populations over time, which became a unifying theme of our stewardship plan. John dug through a lot of research to develop specific goals to include in our plan—see his 2010 Diggings Newsletter article “Managing for Big Birds on a Small Acreage” for the details.

The beauty of Coached Stewardship Planning is that the emphasis on developing a plan specific to your own particular goals means that every plan is different. While we are using woodpecker habitat needs to determine where we cut firewood, place trails, log, plant trees, etc., we have friends whose plans center around providing cabins throughout the property for a religious order retreat center; others who manage primarily for harvesting medicinals and non-timber projects; and still others who are devoting much of their acreage for timber harvest timed to fund grandchildren’s college expenses. Like us, many of them have plans with goals that may extend beyond their own lifetimes.

And that brings us to the second forestry class offering that I highly recommend from our own personal experience—the “Ties to the Land” estate planning course. These sessions opened our eyes to how many obstacles the absence of a plan presents to kids who want to take over land ownership after their parents die. So we had the requisite family discussions and ended up converting our property to an LLC (one of many options discussed in the class) with our son and daughter as shareholders. Who knows what the future holds for any of us, but at least if the kids decide to hang on to the property after we’re gone, it will be a fairly straightforward process.

When it isn’t raining or snowing these days, you can usually find me out in the woods working on a trail system around the property with loppers and pruning saw. While the trail improvement is ostensibly for our 3-year-old granddaughter (“Nana—I don’t like pokey trails—is this going to be a nice trail?) I’ve been thoroughly enjoying myself, and we find we are making the rounds of our property almost daily. And yes, despite the clear-cut acreage that now surrounds our land, we often spot a big woodpecker with a bright red crest along the way.

by Carol Mack, WSU Kalispel Tribal Extension,