Battle stations! Here come the stink bugs

By Stephen Harris - For The Tribune
Stephen Harris Back In The Hometown -

I feel like a Nazi German soldier awaiting the Allied invasion on D-Day.

It’s time for the annual stink bug invasion of the Harris house here in the hometown. Though it’s still warm, the stink bugs are feeling chilly. And they are ready to come inside to hibernate after a summer spent in woods and cornfields.

“Once established in your house, it’s nearly impossible to get rid of them,” Cornell University entomologist Peter Jentsch warned The Indianapolis Star newspaper.

And September is the time of year when stink bugs get established, the time when they come in your house. I’ve had a few to get inside already. And it’s up to me and me alone to keep them out.

If unsuccessful, I will have the bugs coming out the wazoo not only until the onset of frost but also next April and May when they crawl out of their hibernation dens and want to be let outdoors again.

I got blindsided in 2014. I didn’t know about the bugs and they got inside everywhere, it seemed. In the living room, in the clothes closets, under rugs. They left brown spots on the heat registers and on photo mats that still I do not know how to clean off.

The brown marmorated stink bug, as they call it, was first spotted in the U.S. in Allentown, Pennsylvania, in September 1998, according to Wikipedia, an online encyclopedia. The bugs came from east Asia probably hiding in packing crates, Wikipedia said.

The docile bug with the marble-looking shield reached Forsyth County in 2009, according to N.C. Cooperative Extension, and has spread to 70 North Carolina counties. A few areas Down East have not yet been invaded. Meanwhile, the bugs are in 40 states, according to Wikipedia.

They do not bite, sting or even struggle much when you pick one up. You’re tempted to think of them as a potential pet until a split second later when they let one from glands between the first and second pair of legs.

What an odor. It’s a cross between the scent of cilantro and the smell of the paper plant in Canton. The bugs are the skunks of the insect world.

They will enter your house under siding, around window and door frames and chimneys or through any space they can squeeze in, they say. They once found 26,000 in one home, Wikipedia said.

I have an air conditioner unit permanently affixed in a wall. Stink bugs loved it in ‘14 when the a/c served as a big welcome sign for the bugs to crawl through and into my house.

Now, each September I have to wrap the unit in plastic long before summer’s done and to the protests of the a/c addict who lives with me.

Still, stink bugs were getting in and I remained puzzled. Then last year I found some bugs trooping through a gap in my storm door, between the screen and glass frame. So I taped up the gap.

Hah. I had outwitted ‘em, I thought. No more stink bugs. The following spring I heard, I thought, the bugs giggle as they crawled out from their indoor hiding places wanting to be let out.

Stink bugs are still finding ways to get inside. OK, time again to go around the house hunting for bugs. And time again to go around with caulk in hand while hunting for cracks and holes that the bugs might use.

“You have to think like an insect,” said Jentsch, the New York bug scientist. I fall short on that one.

The climate in the U.S. is ideal for stink bugs, they say. Just our luck. A female can lay as many as 400 eggs, Wikipedia said.

Meanwhile, the bugs here in the U.S. have no predators. They are considering bringing over from China the parasitoid wasp that preys on stink bugs.

Oh, great. What could go wrong with that? They brought kudzu over from Japan after the experts thought those big, tough, fast-spreading vines would be great in stopping soil erosion. Thanks, experts.

You should see the tail on one of those Chinese parasitoid wasps. It looks like the tail of a scorpion and is twice the length of the rest of the wasp’s body. Meanwhile, the Chinese wasp’s four-inch tail has the color and markings of a copperhead.

Just wait till those things start coming into the house for the winter. I might start emitting some odors myself.

Stephen Harris returned home to live in State Road.

Stephen Harris Back In The Hometown Harris Back In The Hometown

By Stephen Harris

For The Tribune