Thursday, April 19, 2012

Our House- The All-Inclusive Stink Bug Resort

Oh, stink bugs.

While many of us are battling a year-round war, others feel blanketed in the illusion that they will never have need to be concerned. Those who foolishly believe they will remain unaffected by what reports predict will be stink bug invasions of "Biblical proportions" over the next few years, should shake off the delusion quickly and start preparing a course of action. They're coming, like it or not, and like little Terminators, encased in their seemingly bulletproof shells, they WILL be back. The question is...will YOU be ready?

Stink bug on my kitchen chair cushion, searching for free continental breakfast.
Here is one of the many recent articles warning of the impending stink bug invasions expected this season.

Why listen to anything I have to say? Well, let me start by bringing you up to date on some of the reasons I'm so, um...passionate on this subject.

We have joked for years that stink bugs are convinced that our home is their mothership. They really seem to love it here, perhaps thinking the walls that we call home are some sort of all-inclusive stink bug resort. After years of research, we have to logically attribute their love of our home to our proximity to farm lands, acres of fine dining for these lil' stinkers. In order to understand why they hole up inside our home, their cabana, you'll need to learn some background on how and why they're here in the first place.

Here's a fantastic overview about the brown marmorated stink bug 

Brown marmorated stink bugs were first discovered vacationing in Allentown, Pennsylvania in 1998. They had traveled a long way from their native lands in Asia, but once they got to noshing on Pennsylvania's apple and peach orchards, they began to thrive. At this stage in their attempt at U.S. domination, they have begun satiating their appetites on corn, berries, tomatoes, beans and peppers, causing over 37 million dollars in crop damage last year alone.
We found NINETEEN stink bugs on the outside of our screen last September, all desperate to get inside our home for a luxurious winter stay. For sadistic fun, I recommend flicking screens.
These bugs think our winters STINK and turn their rostrums (tube-like beaks) up at the cold weather, so they check-in to our homes for a cozy stay until the weather is warm enough for them to begin to make their way back out to the dining fields.

Spring here for humans is met with mixed emotions now that we we share our homes and land with stink bugs. We experience an initial sense of joy in opening up our windows for the first time after a winter's chill, only to have the day ruined by the inundation of jazzed up stink bugs, waking from wherever they've been hiding in our homes. Any time we try to get out into the sunshine, several eager stinkers excitedly buzz past our heads with the same idea. They want to start the season right, with a tasty meal, some buzzing with friends in the fields, and when the mood is right, some serious mating and egg laying.
Stink Bug Scream
Stink bug vacationing at our resort
So how bad is it here in eastern Pennsylvania? Well, let's see. Once, I began blow drying my hair when the all too familiar stench hit. Ah, yes. I was slow roasting a stink bug who had lodged itself inside the dryer. As if that's not a fine enough way to start the day, I can't count the times we have found a groggy stink bug taking a coffee dive into one of our mugs. Caffeinated stink bugs are a sight to see, I assure you. We've since learned to always check whatever we are eating/drinking before we indulge, and the bugs have learned a rather effective back stroke, indeed.

And then there was the time I knelt down to tie my shoe only to find a stealth stink bug embedded in my laces. Or the time I found my 6-month-old daughter pawing away at one who had stunk all over her usually berry-fragranced hands. If you've ever had your hands hit by a stink bug, you know how difficult it is to get that smell to fade. Hmmm...that might actually be a good deterrent for nail biters.

My most memorable incident occurred when I was teaching a class of 10th graders, assessing a presentation when I felt a tickle on my ankle. Looking down I found the most heinous of all Halyomorpha halys INSIDE my tights, writhing, trapped against my flesh. With 10 minutes left in the class period, I mustered up every bit of strength and determination I had in me to keep my cool. As soon as the bell rang to dismiss the students, you can bet I sprinted to my desk to tear those tights off as fast as I could. My revulsion knew no bounds, and I only hope no students caught me frantically tearing my undergarments off behind my desk. I can only imagine...

How do I keep my sanity through all this? I just force myself to envision what it would be like to be infested with scorpions instead.

Stink bugs who have overindulged at our resort can be found in various lounge areas here. 
So what do we do about it? Unfortunately, it seems there are no natural predators for these bugs, and even though we are not a family that uses insecticides, recent studies show they have little, if any, effect. The best defense is to prevent them from entering the home by sealing any opening they might be able to penetrate, an action that is most definitely easier said than done. If you've found that you, too, have a home that these stink bugs consider a hot spot, here are some pointers from our family to yours.

CAUTION!!! Our resort's " Hot Stones Spa" (halogen lamp), when it is on, is the most effective stink bug eradicator.  We had to add the screen to the top to prevent them from literally burning. This was a MAJOR fire hazard before the screen was added, so be extra careful if you have lamps like this in a stink bug resort. 
We need to start with a list of DO NOTs. DO NOT squish stink bugs as this will cause them to release their "stink" as a defense mechanism. Other stink bugs are drawn to the odor, so by squishing them, you're actually sounding the horn to attract others. DO NOT suck them up with a vacuum cleaner either as it will produce the same effect. Although I'm one of those people who releases spiders outdoors, DO NOT set your stink bugs free. Their numbers are increasing rapidly, causing major damage to crops in dozens of states. These stinkers have to be taken out. Most importantly, DO NOT panic. Yes, these bugs are incredibly annoying and problematic, but they are not physically harmful to humans in any way.

After years of experience, we have a simple method to lessen the number of bugs giving our home a five star review. We use old pill bottles, remove the labels so we don't pop a stink bug instead of a vitamin C, and scoop up any bugs we spot. This method prevents the bugs from releasing their stink. After we have gathered several, we leave the bottle in the freezer overnight to ensure their demise. Then we simply toss them into the trash. We have also created a mass grave in our compost heap, in hopes that the living will spy the atrocity and warn others to steer clear of this deceitful resort, but no such luck. The free room and board is, unfortunately, too tempting.
Our effective Stink Bug Catcher! Notice we have placed "XX" on the lid and created a humorous new label to prevent any confusion of its contents. 

One last thing- clean up. As if the honor of running a stink bug resort is not rewarding enough, we must also consider the issue of housekeeping. Yes, these darling stink bugs POOP...a lot. If you begin finding what look like black coffee droplets, oh, say EVERYWHERE, then you're going to need to up your game. With two children and a large Rottweiler living in this house, you'd think I have enough feces to manage, but alas, we'll need to add stink bug poo removal to my housekeeping list of doodies. Whoops. I mean duties. Fortunately, stink bug waste is easily tackled with plain old soap and water. A Mr. Clean Magic Eraser will take care of any stubborn droppings. Extra fun!

Stink bug poo that has dripped down the wall. Adds such charm to any home.
Fecal splatter on the blinds, a stunning view
Typical droppings. Do reconsider "The 5 Second Rule" when you visit our home. 

The harsh reality is that stink bugs aren't going anywhere any time soon. They will continue to congregate on our windows, defecate all over every surface of our house, buzz loudly as they fly through the air- playing mysterious banjo notes as they fly into the instruments hanging from our walls. Their presence is more than just a mild annoyance, but it is a constant reminder of the delicate balance of our ecosystem and the dangers involved in accidentally introducing new species on foreign soil. Just remember to keep your cool and do some research so that you can educate yourself about these creatures. Hey, E.T. was ugly but we all grew to love HIM. Anything can happen...

XOXO From My Hearth to Yours
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ctesh said...

Awesome article Cally! We have a serious stink bug problem in our farmland property too. They are everywhere! I like your pill bottle plan we may use it for the low crawlers. I am usually a vacuum-er though.

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