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It's cold, so stink bugs coming back in

TNS Regional News • Jan 24, 2014 at 3:07 PM

They’re big (for a little bug), slow and don’t scare easily. And when crushed, they smell like spiced-up skunk.

The brown marmorated stink bug might be considered the sloth of the insect world. And the critters are creeping from walls, attics and other hiding places, drawn by rising thermostats to the comfort and warmth of your house.

“They don’t really want to be in your house. There’s nothing you have that they want,” said Mike Hogan, an associate professor of agriculture at Ohio State University and an OSU Extension educator.

“They're just looking for protection until they can be outside in the spring.”

Most of the species, native to Asia, can winter just fine under tree bark or woodland debris. But the intrepid among them climb through cracks and crevices in your house beginning in October.

The bugs were first identified in the United States in Allentown, Pa., in 1998. They reached Ohio about 10 years ago and now are present in about 40 states. Like other invasive species, they probably arrived in shipping containers from Asia.

Adults emerge in June, mate and lay eggs through August.

“I’ve found four to five dead bugs and one to two living bugs each day,” Amy Harkins, a Clintonville resident, wrote in an email.

She suspects the insects found their way indoors via gaps in older windows and doors.

“If I pull out a folder or bag that I haven’t used in a while, there are usually a couple in there hibernating.”

Some people crush them, only to get a shot of their caustic scent and a brown stain.

Others use chemicals against them, although that isn’t recommended. “You almost have to get insecticide on their mouth parts, not just on their feet,” Hogan said.

Harkins’ solution: a vacuum, a plastic bag and quick disposal. “It’s strangely satisfying to suck them up,” she said.

Others recommend scooping up the bugs in a sealable plastic bag to die by asphyxiation. Popping the bag into a freezer works even faster.

While seemingly nefarious, the bugs are actually docile.

“They’re a nuisance,” said Ron Hammond, an OSU entomologist. “But they’re really not doing any damage, and they’re not going to hurt people.”

When crop season arrives, however, they feast on soybeans, sweet corn and other crops, including fruit.

They also might crowd out native stink bugs, Hammond said.

“When you get an invasive species, it could honestly upset a lot of things, including the native stink bugs — and they fit into the food chain with other animals, including birds. Who knows what might happen?”

With all the negatives, there might be surprising benefits, including a new hors d’oeuvres.

Bug-eating enthusiasts “sauté them with garlic,” Hogan said he has heard. “I don’t know what that does with the stink, or if you have to swallow them whole to avoid it.”


By Dean Narciso - The Columbus Dispatch, Ohio (MCT)

©2014 The Columbus Dispatch (Columbus, Ohio)

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