As I type this in January, my house is infested with stink bugs. When your home has an insect problem, you have two options: call an exterminator, or feed oranges to the pests.
Guess what I’m doing?
Yep, there’s a stinkbug on my windowsill who probably thinks I’m nuts because I’m trying to feed it orange slices. He seems very suspicious of me. I gave him one slice and he climbed up the blinds away from it. Then I put a second slice in front of him and now he’s been staring at it for the past – oh he’s moving!
Oh wait never mind he’s climbing away from it again. Come on, dude, I’m just trying to be hospitable! Sheesh.
I’m a little torn at the moment. I don’t want stink bugs in my house, but if I toss them outside in the middle of winter, I’m not sure they’re going to make it. Maybe I’ll just catch as many as I can, put them in a big jar, and feed them some other fruit besides oranges until April.
First day of warm weather, though, they’re getting the boot – metaphorically, metaphorically!
Despite this particular stink bug’s pickiness (okay now he’s just hanging upside down over the orange slice, what is going on?), most stink bugs do enjoy eating fruits, nuts and beans, although some prefer to eat other insects. The fruit eaters have a proboscis that acts as a straw for sucking juice through the fruit’s tough skin – wait is that the problem? Is he not eating the orange because I pre-cut it? Oh, I’m sorry, Mr. Fancypants, did you want me to leave the crust on? Is it tainted now? Good grief, you’re the one who broke into my house, buddy, you’re lucky I’m giving you anything!
Anyway, when they’re not in your home, predatory stink bugs are pretty nice to have around the garden since they get rid of other pests. Also called shield bugs for the shape of their carapace, stink bugs are commonly referred to as such because they emit a foul smell when you scare them or (if you’re mean to bugs) squish them. And yes, I’m allowed to call them “bugs” because these guys are actually true bugs and members of the order Hemiptera, just like the giant leaf-footed bugs we talked about a month ago.
Although I’ve seen them around my whole life, stink bugs didn’t actually arrive in North America until 1998! They originally came from Asia, but can now be found throughout the U.S. and Canada. Because they’re relatively new arrivals, stink bugs don’t have many natural predators on this continent – not that I’d blame anything for steering clear of this insect, I can’t imagine what that smell would taste like. Bleh.
Apparently stink bugs can also emit a different smell when they find a cozy spot to spend the winter and want their stink bug buddies to come and join them, but fortunately we humans don’t have to deal with whatever that scent is because we can’t smell it. I’d especially say that’s for the best because if you followed said scent and accidentally uncovered a pile of sleepy, startled stink bugs, the resulting smell would probably make your eyes water.
All right, I just used Seek to deduce that the picky stink bug in my room is a brown marmorated stink bug. Since this species does eat fruit among other things, I have no clue as to why this dude doesn’t want my oranges. Maybe he had a big lunch? Hopefully he’s not sick.
Oh, oh, I think I just figured it out! Okay, this website also says that in the winter, stink bugs enter a state called diapause, in which they don’t reproduce or eat! So that’s why he didn’t want my oranges. Huh. Mystery solved! Oh, and none of the stink bugs in my house are going to lay eggs in here, sweet. They’re not eating anything, they’re not leaving larvae behind to eat anything – maybe I don’t need to kick them out after all.
Well, there you have it, folks: the stink bugs that hung out in your home this winter weren’t there to cause trouble, they were just sleepy and living in a state of non-growth while they waited out the cold weather. Instead of sucking them up in your vacuum cleaner or tossing them out in the snow next year (if you’re one of the lucky people who live where frozen wonderfulness regularly falls from the sky), maybe just let them hang out and keep warm instead. They won’t bother you, you don’t bother them, and then they’ll head on out when the weather gets warm again, no harm done.
Just be sure not to startle them. Especially if you detest the smell of cilantro.
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