Stink bugs, or Halyomorpha halys, are wriggling inside houses from New Jersey to California to Florida and are causing quite a stink. The prehistoric-looking insects get their name from the odor they release when threatened or squished, and people have described it as smelling of dirty socks. The bugs are native to Asia, but started showing up in the United States more than 10 years ago, and with high reproduction rates and no natural predators, there’s little we can do to stop them.

The stink bug has invaded 29 states so far, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, but Mid-Atlantic States — from New Jersey to Virginia — have experienced the heaviest infestation. They’re crawling into U.S. homes through torn screens and cracks in siding, seeking a warm, dry place to spend the winter.

However, stink bugs aren’t just crawling into houses — they’re also invading farms. The bugs feed on a variety of fruits and vegetables and are devastating crops across the nation. In places like Maryland, stink bugs have already destroyed 30 to 40 percent of some of the crops, and Congress is taking action. U.S. Reps. Roscoe Bartlett (R-Md.) and Todd Platts (R-Pa.) have asked the USDA to reclassify the bug as a regulated insect because the designation would allow emergency use of pesticides to limit further damage to crops.

Luckily, the bugs are harmless — they don’t bite and they don’t transmit disease. However, as their name implies, they do stink, and the ones you see probably aren’t the only ones in your house. How can you get rid of them? Experts recommend caulking cracks in siding and around windows, replacing torn screens and installing weather stripping. If you see one in the house, get out the vacuum and suck it up, and then quickly dispose of the bag. (Text: Laura Moss)

Laura Moss ( @laurajmoss ) writes about a variety of topics with a focus on animals, science, language and culture. But she mostly writes about cats.

Think bedbugs are bad? Meet the stink bugs
States across the nation are being plagued by smelly stink bugs. The pungent pests have been spotted as far west as California and as far south as Florida.