The invasion of the stink bugs

Isn’t early fall a great time of year? The air is still warm and the lakes are still swimable for the tougher types.

Isn’t early fall a great time of year?

The air is still warm and the lakes are still swimable for the tougher types.

We get to enjoy the beautiful colours of leaves against clear blue skies, to eat the last of the fresh fruit and vegetables of the season and celebrate it all at the fun fall fairs.

We also get a whole lot of creepy-crawly company coming in to our homes, whether we like it or not!

Yep, the ubiquitous stink bugs are once again on the move to herald in the coming of colder weather by plastering our roofs, walls and windows in the hopes of stealthily slipping into our abodes to blissfully burrow in to every available cozy crack and crevice we can offer them, including our folded clothes and between our bed sheets and pillows – yuck!

Even worse, those icky insects seem to have an amazing sense of timing too, because just as you’re settled in for a movie or about to chow down on a delicious dinner, you’ll hear that ‘buzz-thwack’ of one landing close by or the dreadful drone of another coming straight at you or spinning dizzily under your overhead light where you’re trying to read in that butt-down spastic style of flying!

So what’s with these unpleasant and unwelcome houseguests anyway?

Like a lot of critters and plants we have nowadays, this ‘Halyomorpha halys’ or brown marmorated stink bug, hitched a ride from their Asian origins of China, Japan and Taiwan to the U.S.  and was discovered in eastern Pennsylvania around ’98 and have now spread throughout many of the states and parts of Canada.

They come in a number of varieties, tend to be either green or brown and females typically lay one to three batches of 20 to 30 eggs (depending on the climate) a year that hatch four to five  days later from the underside of the host plant in the summer.

This means that they’re not busy making baby bugs in our houses during winter, which is a relief, and they only sleep and don’t eat until they exit again in the springtime.

Bugging us is bad enough, but they’ve unfortunately become a very bad bug for farmers, who can go bust by losing millions of dollars annually to those things treating themselves to their crops.

Their tactic to survive and thrive is to pierce the parts of plants such as the stems, leaves and roots of 80 or so different species – fruits, veggies, soybeans, corn and ornamentals – with a long proboscis that enables them to suck out the juices, resulting in a dimpled or necrotic area on the outer surface.

This not only makes the product unsightly and unfit for sale, but pathogens can be transferred from one plant to another, just like mosquitoes do with blood.

There are some omnivorous-type species though, that are considered the good guys to farmers, because they predate on other agricultural pests such as caterpillars, beetles and even their fellow plant-eating stinky cousins.

However, they’re now becoming resistant to insecticidal sprays, so the ‘bug brains’ are conducting research on other control possibilities, such as using ‘trap’ crops that are planted near the cash crops in the hope that it will attract the insects away from the ones that pay.

Let’s hope that works, because it would be a whole lot friendlier to the environment and other critters.

Thankfully they tend not to bite, but their foul chemical spray that’s used as a defence mechanism can make the job for harvesters unpleasant and even risky because it can sometimes cause some serious allergic reactions and skin problems.

Prevention of invasion is key for us folks by keeping our doors and windows shut and scouting the house from attic to basement to plug up any possible entry points such as vents, tears in the window screens and cracks in the walls.

You can also move stuff away from the outside walls such as firewood, where they like to hide out until they can get in.

However, the little Houdinis never seem to fail to find their way in anyway, leaving us few options to discard or dispatch them without reeking the place up.

So until the ‘bug brains’ can find a way to make them go away, I guess we’ll just have to do our best to keep the beastie bugs at bay and learn to live with those creepy crawlers until the spring migration starts the whole icky thing all over again.


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