Don Davis: Interesting facts about stink bugs

Don Davis: Interesting facts about stink bugs

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Last week’s heat wave brought out stink bugs in huge numbers. Here are 10 surprising and fascinating observations I have made about these invasive foreign pests.

1. These are brown marmorated stink bugs, a variety of stinkbug native to Asia and first discovered in the U. S. in Pennsylvania in 1998. Now in 41 states, the insect first was found in Lynchburg in 2006.

2. Stink bug numbers are high this year, probably double those of last year. This is in line with predictions given earlier in the year by entomologists working for the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

3. Some people have thousands of stink bugs around their homes while other people have few or none.

An effort by federal agriculture officials to involve citizens in collecting information on stink bug behavior and housing preferences in the mid-Atlantic region was launched just before the federal government shutdown began.

4. This insect is the only one I know of that feeds on your fruits and vegetables while they are in the garden and after harvest when you put them on your kitchen counter.

5. Stink bugs like to be together. They jam themselves cheek by jowl into tight spots like the inside of the air filter on your lawn mower. When stinkbugs find a suitable place to spend the winter they release an aggregation pheromone to let others know about it. This pheromone is not the same chemical that gives them their foul odor.

6. Mice eat stink bugs. So do daddy long legs, spiders, ground beetles, praying mantises, wheel bugs, wrens, bluebirds and cardinals.

7. Fish eat caterpillars, ants, crickets and horse flies but they do not eat stink bugs. The bluegills living in farm ponds, lakes and rivers take stink bugs in their mouths, taste them and spit them out.

8. You need to keep your drink covered when enjoying the outdoors during stink bug season. One or more of them will fall into your glass and get mixed up with ice cubes where they are difficult to see. Just like a bluegill, you will spit them out if you accidentally pour any into your mouth.

9. Stink bugs cause dermatitis in people when scratched by the sharp edges of a stink bug’s shell or exoskeleton. The result is swollen, reddened, itchy skin. Having a stink bug under your clothing and crawling up your arm or leg is most unpleasant, particularly if you are standing in line at a store or pumping gas into your car.

10. These insects are tough. They can survive great hardship. As an example, while I was painting the house a stink bug flew into my bucket of white latex paint.

It was totally submerged and so I fished it out of the bucket and flicked it onto the grass. A week later I discovered that it was still alive and moving around the yard. Later, I was using oil based paint which proved more toxic.

Davis is a retired Lynchburg Extension agent. He can be reached at dodavis2@vt.edu.

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