Battle is on with the brown marmorated stink bug invading my Dallas home
It's been a buggy year in Dallas, from the invasion of the inchworm to the Crane Fly outbreak in March.
But those pale compared to the current insect scourge infesting my house: the brown marmorated stink bug.
These little creeps started showing up in late April, on my windows and porch. At first, it didn't seem like a big deal; they'd shown up in prior years.
Stink bugs are like the skunk of the insect world: If you try to move or kill one, they emit a noxious odor in defense. I once saw my unwitting cat sniff one, then run in circles in agony for a few minutes after having set off the odor, which is musky and lingers in the air for quite a few minutes.
Brown marmolated stink bugs are an invasive species from Asia first spotted in the U.S. in the late '90s in Pennsylvania. They're currently in nearly all 50 states. They're shaped like a shield, about as big as a fingernail, are paper thin, and can fly. They don't bite and are viewed as harmless, although they are starting to have an impact on crops.
According to this Dallas Morning Newsstory, they hadn't yet surfaced in DFW in 2012, so it's only been in the last decade, and mostly just in Collin and Dallas counties.
After this spring, I feel certain they were all at my house. Inside my house. Somehow they got inside my house, and it has been a journey.
Two brown marmorated stink bugs.gdb.voanews.com
Experts say that the brown stink bug can be found in leaf litter and vegetation outdoors, and can enter structures by the hundreds or thousands, and will congregate anywhere: under sofas, in cracks, behind baseboards, etc.
I try to do no harm, I won't use Raid, so when I find bugs, I usually put them outside. But these were on my couch, under my dining room table, crawling on the edge of my TV, climbing the front doorway, poised on the side of the refrigerator. One even had the nerve to crawl on my kitchen countertop, which my cats know is a big NO.
At first, I would cover them with a plastic cup, scooch a cardboard on top, toss both out the door, run back in the house, then retrieve the cup and cardboard once it was safe.
But more stinkbugs kept coming in. Part of this was moderately empowering. I used to be afraid of insects, so being chill about any kind of bug seemed like personal growth.
And supposedly every species has its role or purpose. But brown marmorated stink bugs haven't been here long enough to serve a purpose, besides grossing people out.
I also try to allow nature to prosper. For example, they say it's better not to rake leaves but leave them to replenish the soil. I mow only intermittently, unlike my neatnik neighbors. (I wonder if they mow more often to compensate for my lack of mowing?)
But when stink bugs find a good place to stay, they release a pheromone that attracts more stink bugs. The pheromone I was hoping to send out needed to say, "This is no place for stink bugs, stay away."
Instead of ferrying the stink bugs out to my yard, I started putting a cup over two stink bugs and just leaving them on my floor. At least they could die together, and hopefully they were sending out pheromone warnings. Soon I had a dozen upside-down plastic cups strewn around the floor — but whenever I passed them, I felt so much guilt.
I started throwing them in the toilet; I read somewhere that the final stage of drowning is euphoria. But I couldn't bring myself to pee on one while it was in there floating, so now I was flushing two and three times.
Pesticides were starting to look good. But the National Pesticide Information Center Oregon says that "using pesticides inside the home to control stink bugs is often ineffective."
Time to sweep the perimeter. Remembering the part about how "stink bugs can be found in leaf litter and vegetation outdoors," a call was placed to Ernesto, the favorite landscaping guy in my neighborhood. He and his crew came and efficiently macheted my fake Topanga Canyon to the ground.
The flattened terrain they left behind felt gratifyingly tidy. But it only lasted a minute when I saw a rustle in the grass — a shell-shocked brown wolf spider running for cover from her perch on the fence — and felt terrible about destroying her habitat.
Even after the clear-cutting, brown stink bugs still showed up inside the house — although the population did seem to decline. It's down to just one or two a day now. Probably would have happened regardless.
Really, they were innocuous. They're not creepy crawly, they just sit there, dim and innocent, letting you put your cup over them, farting out their fear. If only there hadn't been so damn many.
Thank god, the brown wolf spider returned to rebuild her home on the fence. The guilt would have killed me.