Garden Q&A: Twice-stabbed stink bugs, cardboard 'mulch'

What is this bug that has been showing up in my garden? Last week I saw it on milkweed.

While it has a nicely ghoulish name for this time of year, the twice-stabbed stink bug is actually winding down and will soon find a sheltered spot to overwinter as an adult. The bright red of its two “drops of blood” warn predators of its stench like other stink bugs. Fortunately, it will not head for our homes to overwinter, like its invasive cousin the brown marmorated stinkbug. (That pest’s numbers are up a bit this fall, but its numbers have fallen precipitously and expected to stay there). The twice-stabbed stinkbug is a general feeder, inserting its feeding tube and slurping out plant juices, but is rarely a significant pest in the garden. In spring Cosmopepla lintneriana mates and lays eggs that hatch into extremely tiny nymphs, earning its other common name, wee harlequin bug.

Last spring my vegetable garden was weedmagedon. It was so bad that I used cardboard as a “mulch.” It worked great. The cardboard is sort of beat up but it’s still there. Can I leave it over the winter? Can I add fresh cardboard now to plug the breaks so I don’t get another weedmagedon next spring?

The cardboard will continue to decompose this winter and probably can be worked into the soil along with other organic soil amendments by next spring. We recommend covering the soil with new cardboard in spring.

University of Maryland Extension’s Home and Garden Information Center offers free gardening and pest information at Click “Ask Maryland’s Gardening Experts” to send questions and photos.

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