Commentary: Stink bug encounters ‘reek’ havoc as Halloween nears


This is the week for scary things.

Bats and ghosts hang from trees, pumpkins glow on the steps, rows of tombstones loom in front yards, and the webs of giant spiders take over porches. Television viewing schedules are full of classic horror flicks and the newest version of Halloween is breaking box office records at the theaters. Spooky stories around campfires and haunted houses chill us to our bones.

But some of the scariest things can be found at home.

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Don’t believe me? Then pull out that bottom drawer of the refrigerator, if you dare. Underneath it is where some of us will find stuff growing that looks worse than contagion in the mad scientist’s laboratory. (It’s alive!) We have to be careful when exiting the house in the morning because that porch spider has been planning our capture in her web across the front door. Even though I know that spider cannot spin a cocoon around me, I squeal like a little kid and strike at the web like a ninja.

And nothing, nothing can make me scream louder than a brown marmorated stink bug (BMSB) buzzing though the dark and landing on my cheek just about the time I fall asleep.

These flat brown flying bugs are recent and unwelcome arrivals to our area.

Have you ever really looked at one of those stink bugs close up? They are shaped like the huge alien bugs that attacked in Star Ship Troopers. Really they do. Get out a magnifying glass and look at one face to face. Now that is scary.

These stink bugs are aliens in a way. I’ve been told they are a non-indigenous species from Korea, Japan, and China, and they arrived in Pennsylvania hidden in cargo around 1998. It took them 15 or so years to spread to this area, and they have no natural local predators to keep their population under control.

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However, I would not be surprised to find out they really had arrived from deep space on a meteorite. Where are the Men in Black when we need them?

These annoying bugs have one purpose in life; breaking into our houses to hibernate for the winter. I’ve caught them clinging to laundry as I take it off the line. Those stinky little castaways were hoping to use my laundry basket as a Trojan horse.

Last week I made the mistake of opening a screen covered window for some fresh air only to find out that the BMSB had amassed between the window and screen. That is how the one that woke me managed to get in, and I know I did not find all of his friends.

So what can I do? I called the experts for advice.

“Not a whole lot. You can spray, but it will only be short-lived. Unfortunately they are nuisance pests and they will follow the route of the multicolored Asian ladybeetle. Some years they will be heavy and others not,” said Pam Bennett, who is the State Master Gardener Volunteer Program Director, and Horticulture Educator at Ohio State University Extension Evidently, the key is doing all you can to keep the stink bugs outside.

“One of the most common recommendations is to seal the gaps and holes. Caulk windows and repair screens. Check attics for openings. They like to seek warm spaces this time of the year and congregate in the sunny side during the day.”

“Keep a jar of soapy water and knock them in to kill indoors,” said Bennett.

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That way you can avoid squashing them and releasing that “stink” that gave them their name. The stink bothers some folks more than others, I believe.

She recommended Penn State Extension website on the brown marmorated stink. for more information.

Jody Huenke, Perennial Tree and Shrub Manager at Meadow View Growers agreed that there is not much we can do. She has tried different methods to keep them out of her house and lately one seems to be successful. An ultrasonic sound device seems to have discouraged the stink bugs so she is going to try it out in some other locations to be sure. The device doesn’t seem to bother her cat or dog and she has seen less of the BMSB this year. I hope this works.

Meanwhile, any stink bugs that sneaked into the house will be in their hiding places waiting to surprise us all winter long.

Halloween will be over soon and I don’t want to be surprised by those stink bugs after the scary season is done, so I’ve been doing my part to lower the bug population.

Since the smell doesn’t bother me, I just squash them with anything handy or swat them with the fly swatter. It’s a primitive, non-polluting method of pest control and it makes me feel like Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Have a fun and safe Halloween.



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