Jan 20, 2011

Nature Notes: This Really STINKS! (caution: grossness ahead)

Are you familiar with this little guy?
We are.

He, and his five and a half million relatives, have moved onto our street after running out of room in places like the whole Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
He is a Brown Marmorated Stink Bug (Halyomorpha halys. Linguists: think halitosis. Scientific knowledge here).

He is about the size of your thumbnail, gentle, sits still for long periods of time, flies short erratic distances with a very loud buzz for one so small, doesn't bite or sting or eat holes in your clothes. He is quite comical when overturned, waving his front legs like a swimmer doing the breast stroke upside down, until he reaches the surface and rights himself in one flip!

Hey There, Stink Bug!
Stink Bug Poetry.
 So what can be the harm?
Here it is: he makes every effort to live up to his name. If you touch one, this seemingly harmless critter emits from some vent an odor that, after a year of exposure, I still can't quite describe. But I'll try. It's sort of a chemically-burnt-hair and slightly rotting-food sweet/acrid kind of stench. Like a really bad knock-off of an already really cheap scented candle. Hopefully the Yankee Candle people won't be inspired to create "Invasive Insect." It won't sell, guys.

 And this is how powerful it is:
If it gets on your hands because you were trying to remove him, it WON'T WASH OFF! So then your sandwich is ruined because when you raise your lunch to your mouth, instead of the aroma of a grilled bacon-cheeseburger, you get stench! 

Lentek BV01 Rechargeable Cordless Handheld Bug Vacuum
Bug Vacuum. Bad idea.
 If you step on one--just one!--the room is temporarily uninhabitable.  Don't even think of removing it via your vacuum. You will now simply spread the fumes throughout the house. If you're hoping the dog or cat will eliminate it through play or curious tasting, they won't.

Approved Method of Disposal
 But the worst part of all is that he doesn't drop  in alone. He brings friends by the dozens.

Hiding in curtains
 We first noticed them a year-and-a-half ago, a couple here or there. A mild curiosity, we had heard of reported infestations in NJ , but figured by the benign behavior of the few we saw that Jersey-ites were just looking for media attention. (I'd love to see those "Real Housewives" reactions!) We didn't even notice a smell. We just had fun playing "flip the stinkbug." That was in March '09.

Things changed radically this past summer when the Halyomorpha halys "family reunion" took place in our neck-of-the-woods. Instead of a "few", they were seen everywhere. By October they were clinging to screens and sunny walls by the scores. They buzzed along oblivious to anything in their path, smacking right into us, flying into our cars, our homes, our clothes.

INSIDE Mei's bedroom window

At this point I learned that it was mating season. I also noticed that their gas had hit a new level of noxiousness. From that I deduced that female stink bugs must find this odiferous perfume a turn-on. Sexy.
Within a few weeks, however, the orgies ceased and we could at least open our windows without them falling on our heads. They seemed to be disappearing too! Perhaps they would die off!

Dead one on windowsill

Another dead one


Coming in the sliding door

Some did. Not enough. The rest started finding winter residences. Of course they don't snowbird like the local senior population. They just move INSIDE. I have found them cuddling in the curtains, sunbathing on the windowsills (to keep up that healthy, brown exoskeleton-tone, I guess), sticking to the carpet, and in the evening coming out of all their other unseen hidey holes to curl up near the hearth. One of those hidely holes turned out to be my own mattress, discovered when I changed the sheets. I had been sleeping with one!

Hinding behind Master Bed
 The last two straws came this week. The first was Stink Bug v. Snooze Alarm. I was just rolling over for those most-valued extra few, when I heard the sound of incoming over the bed. Then it landed in my HAIR. I brusquely swiped the thing to the ground. It responded to my hand's attack with its signature reply. Curling back into my little fetal position, hand under chin, I couldn't get cozy when every intake of breath smelled like rancid axle grease. Unarguable wake-up call. If everyone had that experience, there would be no one ever late for work from sleeping in. Think of the increase in productivity. It could end the Recession!

Overwintering Kit for Stink Bugs, Lady Bugs, Boxelder Bugs, etc
Overwintering Kit for Stink Bugs
 Then just the other night during a quiet  family dinner by candlelight with the crackle of a nearby fire, my eye caught sight of a dark object floating in Mei's MILK.  If  you stick your head out the window, you can still hear the ten-year-old's screams.
I've been thinking what the truly phobic must be going through. There must be a lot of new business for pyschiatrists in the Mid-Atlantic these days. Come to think of it, it might be fun to through a few bugs into the homes of those "Real Housewives of New Jersey!" Speaking of hearing the shrieks!
Here's how I, the Nature Lover, deal with them. Can you say "Fiery Furnace?"

Burn, Stinky, Burn

What about you? Got Stink?



  2. I so feel your pain!!!! They are still around in my house...one got caught in my hair not too long away...I screamed, and screamed, and screamed!!! I may need therapy soon. ; )

  3. Oh no! Sorry to hear about the invasion. We do not have those here (thankfully!!!) but we do get little black beetle bugs that seem to be around no matter what season. I've not ventured to check their names but I usually just ignore them. Sweep them out the door. They love my downstairs bathroom and laundry room though...

  4. I would gladly take little black beetle bugs. I'm racking my brain as to what you may have, but it could be something indigenous to your area that I would not be familiar with. There are literally thousands of species of beetles!
    But I shouldn't complain. Link to the site I mention on the post (scientific stuff) and you'll see some comments from people that'll curl your hair, as Mom would say!

  5. We have an infestation of them, too. We live in Maryland.

  6. My DH claims he can't smell them, which I believe. I think he spent too much time building models when he was a boy and sniffed a lot of airplane glue in the process. My mother says I have the Pipes family nose. Blessing or curse?


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