Friday, October 29, 2010

LOOK FOR: Marmorated Stink Bugs

Have you had stink bugs in your home yet? As it cools down, expect to see more. I'm not a huge fan, but these bugs aren't going anywhere. So let's take a closer look.

Stink Bug
Photo credit: fangleman
If you're a gardener you may recognize stink bugs as a relative of other "shield" bugs like the harlequin beetle. They share a triangular shield on their backs, and sucking mouth parts that they use to sip sap from leaves and juice from fruits. Our brown marmorated stink bugs (Halyomorpha halys) are distinguished by a marbled (marmorated) brown back, with white markings on the bottoms of the wings and white stripes on the antennae. And, most distinguishing of all, they emit a stinky chemical from their abdomen and thorax when they feel threatened -- a very effective weapon against predators.

Stink bug
Photo credit: Allie's Dad
Marmorated stink bugs just came to Pennsylvania around 1998, and have been spreading through the eastern United States. Since they didn't evolve here, we don't have any critters around that have evolved to hold their noses and eat them. (In Asia, there's a parasitic wasp that attacks their eggs.) So, these bugs are here to stay.

Stink bugs don't bite or sting, and are generally harmless to humans except for their smell. The best thing is to keep them out of your house in the first place: seal up cracks around windows and doors where they can squeeze in. (It's good for your heating bill, too.) When you do catch them indoors, don't squash them -- you'll regret it for hours. Instead, drop them in a glass of soapy water, or just scoot them outdoors.

And then, you can sing this song: