October 6, 2010

Life With Bugs

We in the mid-Atlantic have something of an invasion on our hands. A stinkbug invasion. The Washington Post report I read called this the mere tip of the iceberg and had the nerve to report that what we'd see in the coming months would be - their word - biblical. (For such a good book, rarely does something good happen when an event is described as biblical.)

Stinkbugs, if you don't know, are little brownish-black creatures about half an inch long with a turtle-like exoskeleton. Despite this they're seemingly able to squeeze through any crack or hole in your house and, also, sense when you're about to open the door. They love being inside. They apparently stink when they get freaked out. I haven't really noticed the smell. I always thought that was Owen farting (it's surely not me). Back in 2001, the first stinkbug arrived on our shores from Asia, having stowed away in a shipping container. Had it landed in Arizona, it would have been immediately deported. But this was the more tolerant Allentown, Pennsylvania where they apparently made hot stinkbug love and thrived. They have no natural enemies beyond several million irate citizens of the mid-Atlantic and northeast.

When they first invaded Virginia around the beginning of spring, I chased one around with a copy of Rolling Stone trying to crush it.

Mia: Daddy, what are you doing?
Me: Trying to smoosh a stinkbug.
Mia: No, daddy, don't do that!
Me: Why, it's the only thing Rolling Stone is good for!
Mia: Huh?
Me: One day we'll have a long talk about the decline of music journalism in America.
Mia: No, daddy. Don't hurt the stinkbug. She's my friend, Dootrabia.

Putting aside the fact that my kid gives stuff some really weird names, I had to respect her wish that I not smash this thing into a billion little pieces. So I picked Dootrabia up and took it outside.

Months later, we're finding a dozen of these things in our house a day. Owen usually spots them and freaks the fuck out like the bug is waving a hot fireplace poker at him (the kid does not like bugs), then Mia wonders what's up Owen's butt. I tell her, "it's one of your friends, like Dootrabia" then I capture the little bastard and shuttle him outside.

What I don't get is everyone freaking about about the stinkbug invasion. Sure, they're annoying. But they don't bite or sting. They don't make any noise, they're not dirty and they don't carry any diseases. They're not going to get any prizes in the looks department but aside from being ugly and pervasive, they're not all that bad.

Now, if Owen would just stop farting...

Oh, and thank you Washington Post for freaking my ass out when I went looking for the stinkbug story again. Really, you should warn a guy before you plaster this on your homepage.


Posted by Chris at October 6, 2010 6:46 AM

OMG! I saw that pic yesterday -ick! And getting to know someone in the *biblical* sense isn't all bad!

My gripe with the stink bugs is that you can't kill them without smashing them, which releases the stinkiness. That, and the fact that they're devouring local crops. I certainly don't want to have to import more food thanks to an imported bug...another crappy Chinese product!

Posted by: Kate M at October 6, 2010 7:19 AM

I grew up and still live in the South, well souther than you, and there have been stinkbugs here my entire life. I just want to know if the infiltrating stinkbugs are the same as the ones that were already here, and what kind of killer smell happens if they meet and blend their genetics.? Can I get a grant to find out?

Posted by: Becki at October 6, 2010 8:05 AM

I try to save bugs around our place, but my son is the Destroyer ( as the bugs know him ), and takes after his mom ( all bugs are evil and will eat your face ).

Here is a great example of where a swarm of robots could really knock out an issue; if they can learn to play soccer, then should just be an engineering problem to get them to recognize the stink bug, and vacuum it up. Now what's interesting about that is from the stink bug's point of view, we just created SkyNet, and now they are in the fight of their lives ( time traveling stink bugs anyone? )

Posted by: metawizard at October 6, 2010 9:32 AM

Tell Mia that even Tinker Bell said "The stinkbugs had it coming!" :) (From Tinker Bell and the Lost Treasure, which is on a seemingly endless loop at our house these days!)

Posted by: Elizabeth at October 6, 2010 10:19 AM

I read a terrible article about those stinky little bastards. They're ruining crops, and since, as you point out, they have no natural enemies here, it's a bigger and bigger problem. Kill away is all I have to say. Hair spray works on roaches - maybe that could be your stinkbug solution?

Posted by: Lemon Gloria at October 6, 2010 10:29 AM

Ever read the picture book "Raising a Little Stink"? Jake loves it, never really thought of the bugs invading my home though.

Posted by: stacie at October 6, 2010 2:09 PM

Bummer about stinkbugs ruining crops. Normally, I hate bugs. I mean, HATE. But I actually find these little guys kind of cute. Not name-worthy, but they seem more durable and inoffensive that some of the many-legged creatures we see in our house.

We are getting our windows replaced for the tax credit, and I hope this puts an end to the stinky invaders, indoors, at least.

Posted by: Laura Gato at October 6, 2010 2:25 PM

You must be one of those ignorant yet blissful souls that is free from being able to smell the true awfulness that those little bastards create. I can smell where one has "fired" for easily 8 hours and our house is INFESTED.

I originally let them outside (they come back in). Then, I rolled them in tissue and put them in the trash (they fire, poisoning our kitchen, then later climb out of the trash). Then, I tossed them in the toilet - they climb out! So, I put them in toilet paper and flushed them (they fire before they go down - poisoning the bathroom). Then, I considered that I was wasting literally gallons of (potable) water for the privilege of poisoning my water closet. Not cool.

Now - I have an empty soda bottle that I collect them in. When it totally grosses me out - I throw it out and get another. I am actually making headway on killing the bastards.

And, if you find me cruel - you have never awakened at 2:00 am to find that one "went off" in your hair.

Posted by: K at October 6, 2010 2:54 PM

Get Owen a bugzooka. It's a nice alternative to freaking out or Rolling Stone Magazine.


Posted by: fauve at October 6, 2010 3:05 PM

I don't even know what I was going to say because that creepy spider photo has made me go stupid...

Posted by: Kristin at October 6, 2010 5:59 PM

we find stinkbugs in our house every once in a while, too (here in portland). and the occasional earwig. i worked really hard to get my daughter to have absolutely no fear when it comes to bugs and she will literally pick up an earwig and cry if i tell her to throw it in the garbage can. mission accomplished! a little too well :)

and lola waffles between really weird names for things, too... and names like "baby" for her baby dolls. all of them. kids are so funny :)

Posted by: kati at October 6, 2010 10:54 PM

ps. better stinkbugs than bedbugs, i always say! well, as of a minute ago.

Posted by: kati at October 6, 2010 10:54 PM

I hate 'em! Truly. And the smell drives me nuts. I'm totally with K on this one. We need a good pesticide to kill them with!

It's been especially disgusting lately because the new kitties think they are delish! YUCK!!

Posted by: cyndy at October 7, 2010 2:18 PM

Or on your blog.

Posted by: Aimee Greeblemonkey at October 9, 2010 1:11 AM