On January 16, 2008 I posted Part 1 of What’s That Smell not knowing there would be a Part 2. Part 1 was about our encounters with members of the Pepe LaPew family who were keeping house under our manse at the farm. Subsequently I’ve written about June Bugs, stinkbait eating dogs, goat head stickers, and dragonflies copulating in mid-air. As you can see, I have a very low standard when it comes to selecting topics for my attention, but I am always alert to the eccentricities of the natural world. I do this, of course, on your behalf.
Recently my attention was drawn to a member of the Pentatomidae family (for those of you not in the know,that’s in the insect world) by none other than the Dirt Doctor, Howard Garrett. I read the good Doctor’s on-line newsletter religiously (well, not religiously, because as you may have surmised from past postings, I am not so inclined….but I read all his stuff). In his recent addition, he posted what I can only call a Stink Bug Alert. As you might imagine, it immediately caught my attention. The aforementioned critter is not simply a stink bug, it is a Brown Mamorated Stink Bug; called a BMSB by those in the trade. It is of the family Pentatomidae, but more particularly it is a Halymorpha Halys of phylum and order respectively.
The stink bug goes by many other names as well, but none so aptly descriptive. Some refer to it a “the shield bug” because of it’s shape. Others say it is a “bark beetle” for obvious reasons. In Mexico it is called Chinche de Monte (among other names) where it is said to have the faint taste of cinnamon. In Viet Nam it is Bo Xit, and in Laos it’s pulverized into a paste and mixed with spices and chiles into a concoction called Cheo, and is considered a delicacy. Strike Laos off my list of culinary destinations.
I won’t go in to anatomical details except to say that it’s malodorous scent is held in a gland in the thorax which is positioned on the abdomen between its two sets of legs. Huh? Why would a bug even have a thorax, and why would it be in it’s crotch, so to speak. Go figure. When disturbed t is said to secrete a viscous fume which contains small bits of cyanide and is thought to smell like “a rancid almond scent” or “old burning rubber coated with rotten cheese and decaying garbage”. That pretty much covers it.
The really bad thing is that these guys aren’t even natives. They are illegal immigrants of the lowest order. They evidently originated in Asian countries and were very happy sucking on fruits and vegetables far, far away until they were snuck in to the United States by an unsuspecting tourist in the early 1990’s.
Whoever this tourist was, he somehow got them to Pennsylvania where they found succor and began to prosper in the sweet glow of democracy and local peach orchards. Until recently, they were more or less contained to the mid-Atlantic states. Due to the absence of any natural predator enemies, they became more than a nuisance. They became an economic threat to farmers of the area. Indeed the nabobs of higher learning in Pennsylvania even called a “stink bug summit” for interested parties of the region. I’ve yet to uncover the results of this summit, but I’m waiting.
Now it’s getting really serious. According to the Good Doctor, they are now in Texas and growing amok. Our own agricultural think tankers at A&M have figured out two ways to fight this pestilence of pests. The first is to introduce squadrons of Trichogramma Wasps who were discovered to have an intense desire to insert their little stingers in the eggs of the BMSB’s and thereby kill the eggs. Voila, over time, no eggs no BMSB’s. At least one problem occurs to me with this solution…many of us are suspicious of unloosing another pest to fight an existing pest. Plus, who among you really would like to have a lot of wasps around. The second, and my favorite, is to step on them whenever you see one. The simplicity of this solution is elegant, and I rather like the thought of all of us uniting in an effort to improve society. So I’m urging you to join with me in stomping down to step up our war on stink bugs in Texas. We can do this. We are not going to let some illegal immigrant of a bug suck the juice of our fruit and stink up our beautiful state. We’ve already got Rick Perry here, and he’s pesky enough.
Ok. So your shoes might smell a little like decaying garbage and rotten cheese for awhile, but it’s a small price to pay.