The Stink Bug Whisperer

Originally published 10/26/2010
Stink BugJust when you thought it was safe to go back to bed…

Lock the windows and bolt the doors! Watch out Mr. Bed Bug. There’s a new kid in town and his name is Mr. Stink Bug. You thought bed bugs were bad? You ain’t seen, or rather smelled, nothin’ yet.

The Brown Marmorated Stink Bugs (BMSB) allegedly stowed away on-board an American bound container ship from their natural habitat somewhere in Southeast Asia. They first landed in Allentown, Pennsylvania around the turn of the century, the twenty-first century, that is. Since then they have migrated to 29 states.

Here in the Peach State where I live, 81 out of a total 151 counties have reported some degree of stink bug invasion and experts predict that the mid-Atlantic region is headed for a stink bug population explosion of biblical proportions. The good news, according to health officials, is that stink bugs don’t transmit diseases nor do they pose a serious health threat.

You might be led to speculate that stink bugs are relatively harmless, unless you are a farmer. Or eat food grown on farms, which pretty much covers everybody. Stink bugs are wreaking havoc on fruit and vegetable crops creating the potential for wide spread economic hardship and food shortages across the country.

The scary thing is that on this entire continent, stink bugs have no natural predators and they are resistant to many of the current chemical pesticides approved for agricultural use by the EPA. 15 members of congress recently signed a letter in September appealing to Agriculture Secretary, Tom Vlisack and EPA Administrator, Lisa P. Jackson to allow farmers to use pesticides not currently approved, “If we fail to take action, damage from this insect could prove to be a national crisis.”

We Georgians love it when the weather turns cool after a long hot summer. Stink bugs do not. Unfortunately, right about now, they’re all trying to keep warm. City stink bugs are headed for the shelter of urban office buildings while the country stink bugs are crawling their way into comfy, cozy suburban homes like yours and mine. If you invite a stink bug into your home, you better plan to have him around for awhile because currently there is no way to get rid of the little stinkers.

They don’t bite or sting, but they are a stinky, I mean STINKY nuisance. Yep. Literally, they stink. Do you know that impulse you have to scream wildly and stomp on any creepy crawly thing that has the nerve to run across your floor? Shut up. Don’t lie. We all have it. Anyway, YOU HAVE GOT TO LEARN TO CONTROL YOURSELF because stink bugs stink when they are squished. That’s right.

So don’t step on a stink bug, don’t smash one with a rolled up newspaper, don’t swat one with a fly swatter, and whatever you do, NEVER, EVER make a stink bug nervous. You are not going to believe this, and I swear it’s true (cross my heart and hope to die, stick a needle in my eye), but when stink bugs feel threatened or anxious, they emit a strong, pungent odor. Some report the odor as musty and skunk-like. There are others who say the stink bug smell is noxious like ammonia. I’ve even heard it said that the smell resembles cilantro (after a few margaritas, maybe). Would you believe there are still others who claim not to be bothered by the smell at all?

There is no way I will ever be so blessed as to count myself among the few who aren’t bothered by the stink bug stench, so I have to pose this question. How exactly does one tell if a stink bug is anxious or feeling threatened? Do his little palms perspire? Is he jumpy or on edge? Does he have trouble falling asleep at night? I do not know, but I’ll tell you this much. If I find a stink bug in my house I will do everything in my power to keep him calm. That’s right. Laugh at me all you want. Call me the Stink Bug Whisperer, but my house will not have that unmistakable musty-skunk-noxious-ammonia-cilantro bed bug smell. Not if I can help it. Good night. Sleep tight.

(Sources: The Washington Post, ABC News, The Baltimore Sun (2),

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