I finally figured out what the spotlights over the Parkway are for: to warn of the coming invasion of stinkbugs.
Two things you don’t want in your house: stink and bugs. The only thing worse is when you combine the two words to describe a one-square-inch, lumbering brown nuisance from Asia.
Stinkbugs are back, and they are stinkier and buggier than ever.
The Department of Agriculture is warning of “an historic outbreak” of the bugs in homes this fall. If you had them in your home last year, chances are you are getting more this year. If you didn’t share in the joy of having a bug or two slowly crawl across the screen while you watched TV, there is a good chance it will happen this year.
Officially called the brown marmorated stink bug, it is believed they stowed away in a shipment of goods from China, Korea or Japan to the Lehigh Valley. From that humble beginning, the stinky immigrants have spread to 38 states and are especially prevalent in South Jersey and Southeastern Pennsylvania. Lucky us.
The BMSB is a true sucking bug, in that it pierces fruit in orchards and sucks out the juice, leaving just a little saliva behind. I apologize if you are drinking a fruit juice right now. If it makes you feel any better, most of the time, the fruit is not sellable. Most of the time.
And it gets worse. They are called stinkbugs because they are the skunks of the insect world, secreting a stinky liquid when they are threatened or killed. It is why they can walk so slow and out in the open. Nothing wants to eat them or kill them. Their powerful defense mechanism makes them cocky little BMSOBs.
You want more bad news? Sure you do. Chance are they are in your home right now. You just haven’t seen them yet. The bugs pour into homes this time of year as it turns cold. Stink bugs like to hang out in “aggregations,” or large groups. If you spot one or two, there are probably hundreds. Andrew McNally, a chimney sweep who came to our home in Chestnut Hill, found an ungodly nest of the stinkers plotting world domination in our chimney. “They love chimneys,” was all Andrew had to say without even a shiver. He is on the front line in the fight against the invasion.
There is no question the species’ American numbers are growing. This fall generation is the biggest on record. Think of it as the stinkbug baby boom generation. Next spring, they will leave our homes in even greater numbers. They mate in our crawl spaces, basements and attics. Each female stinkbug carries 10 egg sacks with 28 bugs each.
The top entomologists at the agriculture department are on this. Pesticide works in the fields, but they don’t recommend this in your home. There is a small wasp in Asia that is a natural predator, but experts are wary of shipping them over for fear we replace a stinkbug problem with a tiny wasp problem.
The most encouraging recent news is that some of our common American bugs have developed a taste for stink bug. They have become a dining delicacy for the even uglier, but less invasive, “wheelbug.” Praying mantises and some spiders have even developed a taste for the stinky food. There are just not enough of them to make a real dent in the stinkbug population.
If your home is short on wheelbugs, it is suggested that we seal our homes. It is the Tom Ridge solution. If you see a stinkbug strutting across the coffee table, a tissue or vacuum will do the trick. The bugs don’t bite or sting.They are just a little creepy crawly. Dispose of them in a toilet or outdoor closed trash can.
One last personal note: I have killed a stinkbug and guess what? It didn’t stink all that much. In fact, hardly at all. I think the whole stink thing might be counter-intelligence stinkbug propaganda to keep us from swatting them.
So I suggest you go for it. If it stinks, sorry about that.