Saturday, January 14, 2012

Missing, please do not find

photo nabbed from HGIC
The last few years here in Maryland have been, among other things, the Brown Marmorated Stink Bug Years.  Most people are aware of this invasive insect (introduced into Pennsylvania in the late 90s and gradually spreading) as a winter home invader, often on a large scale.  When spring comes, the bugs vacate and - as far as the average homeowner is concerned - vanish.

Gardeners and farmers, of course, know where they go.  They've been increasingly destructive pests with an ever-broadening menu that includes many of our most common and beloved food crops - corn and soybeans included, so watch out when they get to the Midwest - as well as ornamental plants.  They suck, literally - as true bugs, they have sucking mouth parts that drain the juice from fruit, leaves, pods, etc.  They feed on corn right through the husk, and here

is what they do to tomatoes.  This is why many of us learned this year to pick our tomatoes while still mostly green but just blushing with color, and ripen them indoors, and even so some of them were damaged.

I hold out no hopes for garden relief this summer; we'll be dealing with these bugs for a while.  (Research is happening on a parasitic wasp that might help.)  But - and I still say this with fingers crossed - whereas the last two winters we've lived with stink bugs in the house, buzzing across the room and slamming into lamps, crawling up the wall next to the bed, hunkering down on the toothbrush - this winter has been nearly bug-free.  I've cleaned up a few dead ones and flushed a few live ones, but the jar-with-a-little-dish-soap I'd prepared to collect and kill in goes unused.  Last winter I had upstairs and downstairs jars, and collected several bugs in each every single day.  So is it just our house they don't like this year?  Having discussed stink bugs with lots of people of late, I conclude that their habits are erratic at best (the bugs, I mean, not the people), and you just can't predict which house or garden will be attractive to them when.  But our house is accessible - full of holes - and I sure as heck had them outside last summer, and at least some of them came indoors early in the fall.  Are they all hiding in the attic or the shed, due to the relatively warm winter?  (In their natural habitat, I believe they hibernate in cracks and crevices just above freezing.  Warm houses are actually detrimental to them, since staying active all winter burns energy they don't replenish (they don't eat in winter) and many die before spring even when we don't pounce on them and consign them to a watery doom.)  Are they all hiding behind the books I never get around to reading, among the appliances I never use, or under the clothes I need to sort out?  We had some in September, so where have they gone?

If found, please do not return to my house or garden.  I have had enough, and I do not want to find one in my bed, on my plants, or inside my underwear while I was wearing it, ever again.  I suspect this is just a respite, but any time without them is fine with me.

Much info to be found here if you want to read it.  If you live in a region not yet invaded and want to invent a little Stay-Away-Stink-Bug dance, I'm sure it would be a big YouTube hit.


  1. "Veined or streaked like marble" -- I had to look up Marmorated. We haven't seen many of these in N.C., but we have "Palmetto bugs" (i.e., huge cockroaches), so that is way more than enough for me!


    1. I'm afraid they might be headed your way. However, as house guests they are nowhere near as disgusting as cockroaches. Cockroaches, on the other hand, don't suck the life out of tomatoes.

  2. YOu write so well, which i love to the max! I love the truth plus the humor.