Stink Bug Dilemma

By Amy Miller

The family is getting ready for a good game of Fastrack. It’s a bit like air hockey, but smaller and quicker. It’s one of the few things that will district us all from computers, TV, the iPod touch or cellulars.

And then a half-inch long, shield-shaped bug appears. “It’s a stink bug,” Lane and Benjamin proclaim.

My daughter forbids me to kill it. Our family is inconsistent on the looming moral question of whether killing an insect constitutes killing. But the problem here is not so high-minded. The problem is that my daughter says the bug will, well, stink to high holy heck if we kill it.

“Why do you think they call it that!” Lane demands, asking that exasperated rhetorical question that is a teenager’s main tool for communication.

Well, I have no idea, I dared not say.

But later, in the quiet after bedtimes, I scanned the web for information.

Turns out these bugs stink when they are scared, smushed, dead, annoyed, or slightly inconvenienced. And especially when they are collected in a vacuum cleaner. They are annoying homeowners in more US states than not these days. They are not native to this country and have only been around since someone or something coming from Asia brought them to Pennsylvania in the 90’s. According to the US Department of Agriculture, the bugs moved from Pennsylvania to most other parts of the country. They apparently got to Texas on an R.V.

Warm weather the last year allowed two separate generations of bugs to breed this year making the whole stinky mess worse. Stink bugs are not a threat to property or health, but do threaten agriculture.

Hundreds of stink bugs in your home is not a pretty sight, though. Instead of killing them, you are better off doing what I did – coaxing the little bugger onto a magazine and carefully carrying it to the doorstep to be tossed into the wind.

And if you didn’t notice, this is the time of year stink bugs move indoors. Soon they will be in hibernation until spring. But for now, the bugs — officially called “brown marmorated stink bugs” — are enjoying our digs.

There are researchers looking at how someday a tiny parasitic wasp from Asia might reduce the stink bug population. This, of course, did me little good when my 10-year-old son got in bed, found a stink bug on his sheets and declared that he could not sleep because of nightmares of invading stink bugs.

About the author: Amy Miller is a writer who works in the public affairs office of EPA New England in Boston. She lives in Maine with her husband, two children, seven chickens, two parakeets, dog and a great community.