Reader Public Service (Entomology 101)

In an earlier post (yesterday’s, I do believe), there was a reference in the Comments (or two or three) to the “Stink Bug” plague we are experiencing in my state. For those readers who may not inhabit the tri-state NJ/NY/PA area, where these things are rampant, please consider this a public service so that you may go about your day, content in the knowledge that these insidiously annoying creatures have not invaded your living spaces (yet).

image from Rutgers University Agricultural Experiment Station

What the heck is this? Ick.

Didn’t you know? It is a Brown Marmorated Stink Bug, or for you scientist geeks out there, Halyomorpha halys. Consider the following, from Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences:

The brown marmorated stink bug (BMSB), an insect not previously seen on our continent, was apparently accidentally introduced into eastern Pennsylvania. It was first collected in September of 1998 in Allentown, but probably arrived several years earlier. As of September 2010, Halyomorpha halys has been recorded from 37 counties in PA and NJ, although it is probable that they are in all counties.

It is also recorded from many other states such as: California, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, Washington, D.C. and West Virginia

This true bug in the insect family Pentatomidae is known as an agricultural pest in its native range of China, Japan, Korea and Taiwan. Recently, the BMSB has become a serious pests of fruit, vegetables and farm crops in the Mid-Atlantic region and it is probable that it will become a pest of these commodities in other areas in the United States.

BMSB becomes a nuisance pest both indoors and out when it is attracted to the outside of houses on warm fall days in search of protected, overwintering sites. BMSB  occasionally reappears during warmer sunny periods throughout the winter, and again as it emerges in the spring.

Allow me to translate this into language we can all really understand:

This thing hitched a ride on a container of Happy Meal toys or some other Chinese-made crap that we needed here in the PA/NJ area, and is now running rampant all over the place. It’s eating our crops and generally scaring the hell out of unsuspecting people who are just trying to live their lives, dammit. Do you think it would be possible to read a book in bed at night and not be subjected to a drop in from points on high? Ugh.

They find the warmest side of your house and swarm all over the outside, and then somehow, when you are not looking (and have ceased flicking them off your bedroom screens), sneak in to hide out until the cold snaps so that they can reemerge when it warms up a touch. Just when you’ve been sufficiently (and unknowingly) bamboozled into letting your guard down and are once again feeling safe enough to sleep with your mouth open (hey, a girl’s gotta breathe), they’re back. (They’re sneaky as hell, but I didn’t see that reported by Penn State.) Bring on the dark, cold days of January, I say. Enough of this already.


The name “stink bug” refers to the scent glands located on the dorsal surface of the abdomen and the underside of the thorax.

These insects are not known to cause harm to humans, although homeowners become alarmed when the bugs enter their homes and noisily fly about.  The stink bug will not reproduce inside structures or cause damages.  If many of them are squashed or pulled into a vacuum cleaner, their smell can be quite apparent.


They have no compunction against startling the hell out of you, particularly in the quiet of your master bedroom while you’re reading the new Vince Flynn novel. However, if you kill, or even startle, them (or stress them, the poor dears), they emit some really gross stink not unlike that of a skunk. This makes killing them tricky, since your inclination to vacuum them up can result in a the smelliest vacuum you’ve never dreamed of; siccing your dopey dogs on them will result in a one-time-only kill (since even the dogs realize that playing with these things just ends in sadness); no known pesticide exists for them (even the most hardened of anti-chemical human beings begins to beg for an Agent-Orange like poison to kill these suckers); and the only real way to get rid of them successfully is to gather them up (one by one) in a tissue and then put your book down and climb out of bed, step over the dog, go into the freezing cold dark bathroom and flush it (turning on the light to make sure it goes down, of course, or risk nightmares of stink bugs in private places in the morning).

This concludes the Reader Public Service Announcement. Please return to your bug-free lives (you lucky so-and-so’s). You’re welcome.

For those scientist geeks out there who’d like more info, please visit the fine entomologists at Penn State. They’ve got Brown Marmorated Stink Bug info sheets you can print out (and color).

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6 Responses to “Reader Public Service (Entomology 101)”

  1. liz Says:

    Damn China! Just another reason to hate on imports.

    And the thought of them in bed and sleeping with your mouth closed totally gave me the heebie jeebies!

  2. Natalie Says:

    Yeah, the sleeping part got me too!! YUCK…I don’t even know if I’d be able to sleep 😉

    Alyson says:

    Well, since the husband has been gone, sleep is not really something that I do so well when he’s out of town….Giving me a good excuse to go bug hunting in the wee hours of the morning.

  3. Alice Says:

    Ever stepped on one while barefoot? Yup. Delightful. Though the best is witnessing one of the kids as she suddenly realizes there’s one sitting within inches of her head on the couch…such sightings tend to inspire flailing and screaming seemingly more fit for the unexpected presence of a lion or cougar in the living room, not a small bug. Then there’s J’s reaction to them, which is more of a rage filled hatred complete with expletives as he trots of to grab the tissue or toilet paper of death.
    Alice recently posted..Marriage

    Alyson says:

    No one here flails any more except me, and only at night when I’m trying to read (and not smother W because he falls asleep in about .5 seconds) and they bonk me in the head in an attempt to get as close to me as possible.

    The muttered swearing that results is not, apparently, a barrier to sound sleep — judging from the lack of movement on the other side of the bed.

  4. Bob Says:

    Have half acre of 46 varieties of fruit and nut trees, asstd berry subhrs vines and groundcovers as well as perennial and annual vegetables all grown poison free. (yes I plant close and use many dwarf trees or multi-grafted trees). (Aberdeen, MD) Hand squashed many of the horrors last spring and summer then in fall used Simple Green to spray some on cole crops and lettuces(1 to 10 ratio) Had only 7 in house all winter. Have found about a dozen in yard in last few weeks mostly in currogated cardboard I save to cover veggie beds to kill weeds before planting . Spraying with Simple Green ( a sassafras and soap product) kills them in less than three minutes slow but sure -nontoxic, noncarcinogenic, biodegradable . Side effect of Simple Green spray is surprising enlargement growth of leaves in 10 days. Larger ratio of simple Green to water (as 1 to 3) can damage the leaves of delicate plants. Another good side effect is curing or preventing some blights and fungus and bacterial problems. Have done only a little of this experimentation of disease eradication as I also use asprin water as a spray and garlic/Ivory soap as a spray. Soooo wish all the researchers would try working with sassafras leaves as a solution to the BMSB. The company that makes Simple Green cannot publicize their product as a bug spray due to EPA regulations.

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