Stink Bugs and Your RV, What to Do

Stink Bugs and Your RV, What to Do

by | Oct 18, 2019 | RV Life

Stink bugs and your RV is not a topic I thought I’d be covering however, when we hit Tennessee, it was as if we crossed some invisible line where the stink bug population outnumbered people 4 to 1. The first day we saw a stink bug in the travel trailer, we didn’t only find one… Neither of us actually counted but if I had to give an estimate, I would say we had about 30 stink bugs hidden in every nook and cranny you could possible think of.

At first, we couldn’t figure out if it was the state park we were staying at or if our trailer was going to be infested with stink bugs for the unforeseeable future. So I took to Instagram and asked if anyone had any advice on how to get rid of them.

Between the internet research I did and the advice given to us by fellow Instagrammer’s here’s a list of what we were told would work:

  • Catch them and release them back outside
  • Spray them with mint
  • Rub a dryer sheet on the outside of the RV (the smell is supposed to repel them)
  • Use Ortho Home Defense (we didn’t do this because we have a dog and didn’t want to risk her ingesting it before it was dry – we also weren’t sure if this was OK thing to do in a state park… thoughts?)
  • Trap them in a bottle of soap and water (this supposedly kills them without letting them release their stink)
  • Make sure every hole to the outside is filled

We were also told that we were basically out of luck until we left Tennessee because Tennessee is infested with stink bugs. Woo hoo, right?

When we first spotted the stink bugs, Justin and I caught the first few and released them back outside. You know… trying to be nice and not kill them. That was a mistake. Stink bugs release a pheromone that attracts other stink bugs to the same area they currently are or once were at. This makes dealing with stink bugs and your RV incredibly difficult! Sure enough, more stink bugs appeared in the exact same area where we had caught the original stink bugs. As soon as we realized they weren’t going to stop appearing, we decided killing them off slowly was a better option.

Justin spent a good amount of time outside with a broom wiping them off of the outside of the trailer. (Some neighbors even stopped and asked him if he’d do their fifth wheel next!) Then he took a rag drenched in soap and water and scrubbed down the outside to remove the pheromones. I did the same thing on the inside where we had caught stink bugs to make sure their pheromones weren’t inside, too. This only worked for a bit before the outside of the trailer dried and the stink bugs decided they were attracted to the hot siding of the trailer again… but hey, the inside of the trailer smelled really good for a hot minute and it was super clean.

If you are looking for a more humane way to deal with stink bugs and your RV try spraying them with mint. We tried spraying the stink bugs with mint essential oils mixed with water. When sprayed, the stink bugs would scurry off as fast as they possibly could because they hate mint. It didn’t kill them (to our knowledge) and it definitely would only work for bugs that hadn’t yet gotten into our travel trailer. After doing this twice within one hour, we had gone through an entire spray bottle and decided this only gave us a temporary relief from stink bugs entering our rig.

So we went and bought ourselves a handheld vacuum and started sucking those suckers up. If you go this route for the pesky ones that do get inside, our vacuum now stinks and we’ll never use it for anything other than sucking up stink bugs. Make sure you get a vacuum specifically for dealing with stink bugs and your RV. Don’t use your good vacuum that you use on your carpet!

Buying a vacuum means we weren’t able to successfully keep stink bugs out of the trailer. And honestly, we’re still getting some (we’re also still in Tennessee. I’m holding out hope that when we get into North Carolina they’ll magically disappear). But! We were able to reduce the amount of stink bugs that came into the trailer by covering up holes.

Until living in a travel trailer, you don’t realize how quickly (and sometimes poorly) they’re put together. The dealership we purchased our trailer from let us know that factory workers are paid per rig they put together… not by the hour. Which basically means the quicker they put together a trailer, the more trailers they can put together and the more money they can make. It also means that your door will be put on crooked… where your hose attaches to clean your black tank won’t be secure causing it to leak inside your bathroom cabinet… and things won’t be sealed well.

Stink bugs can get in through very, very small holes. Your best bet for keeping stink bugs out of your travel trailer is to locate any holes and seal them up tight. Sealing up some spots in our trailer helped reduce the amount of stink bugs we found but unfortunately didn’t eliminate them completely. We currently have a hole in the seal for the slide out and need to either have the rubber replaced or cover it up with some tape. (We’re pretty sure that’s how a frog made its way into our trailer one day…)

Spots in Your Travel Trailer that May Not Be Sealed Well

Here are the spots you may not think to look at when dealing with stink bugs and your RV. We found these areas infested with stink bugs and since sealing them up, haven’t found any in those areas.

Under the Bed

When we moved our mattress, we found a ton of stink bugs in the crack between the back wall and the wooden platform for the bed. There was a really small crack, maybe half an inch wide, that the stink bugs were crawling up through from our storage area (that area is probably filled with stink bugs right now but cleaning that out is a task for another time). After vacuuming up all the stink bugs, we took some of that white tape you find in the pharmacy area of a grocery store and covered up the crack completely. Since doing that, we haven’t found any stink bugs near our mattress or on the back wall behind our bed.

Screen Doors

We have two doors in our 33 foot travel trailer. The front door wasn’t put in straight which means we had a really hard time closing it for the first couple months we lived in the trailer. After getting it kind of fixed, the door closes but it’s not sealed tight on the outside. Stink bugs can easily crawl between the outside door and the screen door. The screen door in the front is sealed great though and the stink bugs couldn’t find their way from the screen door to the inside.

The back door is a different story. While the outside door is sealed better than the outside door in the front, there’s a gap in the screen door where stink bugs could easily squeeze through into our bedroom. There has to be a better fix but for now we’ve covered the crack with the same white tape we used under the bed to keep the bugs from making their way to our bed.

The Oven Hood / Vent

For days we couldn’t figure out why there were so many stink bugs underneath our oven hood/vent. I would vacuum one up and it felt like another 3 would appear. Justin popped the screen off the vent and there were 3 of them stuck to the screen, we watched one scurry behind the metal where we couldn’t get him, and then we went outside… The outside of the vent was covered with at least 50 stink bugs. They were smooshed to the vent and some had sneakily made their way inside.

Justin brushed all the stink bugs off the vent from the outside and then taped that shut. This meant we couldn’t use the vent while it was tapped but it was a sacrifice we were willing to make until we got out of stink bug central. We left the screen off the vent on the inside to help coax out the stink bugs that did make it inside and then sucked them up with the vacuum. When we thought it was all clear, we put the screen back on and used the tape to cover up every single hole we saw, no matter how small.

While we’ve since taken the tape off the vent on the outside, we’ve still left the tape on the inside to make sure any stink bugs that make their way into the vent, can’t make their way out of the vent and into the food we’re cooking!

Slide Out

One place we haven’t found a solution for YET but know is a problem area is the slide out. For a while, every time we brought the slide out in there would be stink bugs stuck to the rubber, on the carpet, or on the wall. I mentioned before that we have a hole in the seal that needs to be fixed but I’m not convinced that is going to fix the problem completely. For the time being, we’re being diligent about checking behind the slide out every time we pull it in so we can vacuum up the stink bugs right away instead of letting them crawl into other areas.

While we haven’t found a solution to keeping the stink bugs out completely, we’ve figured out how to reduce the number of stink bugs that enter our trailer. If you’re having trouble with stink bugs and your RV, hopefully this post will help you seal up some spots you hadn’t originally thought about.

If you have any recommendations on other places to seal or ways to keep out stink bugs completely, let us know in the comments!

➵ Kristen

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