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Stink Bugs

Oh, now there's a blogging topic that has you riveted, right? Well, maybe not. But right now, stink bugs are in the foreground around here, in this corner of Virginia, the top item people talk about, pushing out the weather, as in when is the first frost and how much rain do we still need and is the ground too soft for fox hunting (that last overheard at the health food store).

"So, do you have lots of stink bugs?"
"Oh, yuck, yes. Thousands of them. A lot more than last year. They're all over the screens and we're keeping all the windows and doors closed to keep them out."

A good idea, one much touted on the news, but impractical when one has indoor/outdoor cats who always want to be where they're not. Even against stink bugs, nine cats and their annoying requests win the day.


And below the cut, I describe my battles with the bugs and my conclusions about how to deal with them.


So. Two years ago we had a few and weren't sure what they were. They were mostly on the produce on the counter. Weatherdude thought they were "potato bugs." Mindseas told us they were shield bugs. Whatever they were, they were butt ugly. One year ago there were more of them. Weatherdude eventually discovered they had taken up residence in our chimney and he started a fire, which took care of that problem. We also had a 'broken' heat pump (which actually wasn't broken at all, see posts from a over a year ago http://birdhousefrog.livejournal.com/120708.html) and the repairman found the stink bugs were in there, too. They like electricity and they like heat and dark spaces. So they're in your heating ducts all winter in the attic. Occasionally, they fall out. Onto unsuspecting humans sitting beneath the duct. Ugh. As the weather gets colder and winter unfolds, they get slow and old and easy to catch. We spent a lot of last year catching them and tossing them outdoors into the cold. bwah, ha, ha.

And now this year. Stink bugs have infested this area enough to be all over the local news, much as bedbugs are in NYC. (I'd rather have a stink bug problem.) Suddenly I was seeing them in several rooms of the house. And I wasn't sure where they were coming from. And then one day, much to my disgust I discovered they covered the back side of my lined floor length drapes in the dining room. Oh, ugh! And they were all over the walls. And all over the glass door and screen. And all over the lamps. And all over the windows in my office which is right above the heat pump they seem to love so much. I closed my windows, but that meant they were between the screen and the glass, inside. Ugh, ugh.

Stink bugs get their name from the stench of crushing them. Stink bugs can be vacuumed. Then your vacuum cleaner smells like stink bugs. For a long time. Even with a hepa filter. So Maralton and I vacuumed the stink bugs, took the bag off and disposed of it outside in the trash barrels. And two days later, we did it again. And two days later, again. By this time, G-Dude was doing work around the place and couldn't believe the number of stink bugs. Which made me roll my eyes, because, yanno, I'd already vacuumed up a cool thousand of them at least. No lie. And a few days later, there they were again. I discovered them in new locations, such as the cabinets, hiding on the back side of a rolling door for hanging file folders. How did I find out? I accidentally let go of the door, it slammed down and a whole bunch of stink bugs fell to the bottom of the cabinet when I opened it again. Oh, ugh. So I did it lots more times and vacuumed them all up. They scurry like anything now when we turn on the vacuum.

So here's G-Dude and it's like Tom Sawyer and white-washing the fence. He wants to borrow the vacuum and he vacuumed them up off the side of the house and the garage and inside the wood shop and everywhere he could find them. And he went to the hardware store (we have a REAL one in town, the old-fashioned kind that carries everything and has a wall of little drawers with no labels on them) and they were selling some Ortho product they claimed would kill them. And at my wit's end, I reluctantly agreed to let G-Dude use some on them. Only it doesn't really stop them or kill them in their tracks. And I hate using pesticides because they're indiscriminate. I let him coat the side of the house where the heat pump is and a few other places and then I asked him to stop because he was getting carried away, as he does, with the attack on anything. G-Dude hates things like wasps and bees and snakes, beasties that Weatherdude and I actually like. And then he heard that vinegar works. And rubbing alcohol. And soapy water. And I heard that you should drown them. But they just kept moving and climbed back out of the cats' water bucket. And all I could think of was MIB and the bug alien and that they were already here, the alien bugs. And G-Dude said he'd seen some program about what the world would be like if humans were gone and only animals remained and he thought about my house and yes, it would be open to the elements with lots of feral cats living in it along with a mighty mass of stink bugs.

Then it got colder and no stink bugs for a week. That was nice. Then it got warmer again. And Weatherdude came home from where he was and he got the vacuum out and got them off the back of the drapes again and found them on the back of other hangings and behind pictures and all that ugly stuff. He discovered that if you walk away for 10 minutes after vacuuming, they all come out of the cracks they're in and you can vacuum them up. He shook out the plastic cover for his grill on the deck and it had a few thousand stink bugs in it. And when they came back up out of the cracks in the deck (he shook before he had the vacuum ready), he vacuumed them up too. He went through a couple of very full vacuum bags. And showed me how they were all crawling all over the shingles on the roof, too.

But. We were actually beginning to make a dent in them. There were fewer and fewer. The problem, though, was what to do about them when there were only a few at a time. I had been waiting for critical mass to bring out the vacuum, but that wasn't a really viable option when they were acting like buzz bombs and dropping out of the air while one sat on the couch. We were noticing that the hunting spiders were congregating, but there weren't enough spiders around and I really prefer it when the spiders work outdoors. I needed a solution for a smaller number inside the house and it was overkill to toss them into the drain and run the disposal. Sometimes they just climbed back out. By accident I found the solution when I flipped one into a plastic container that was soaking in the sink with some dishwashing liquid in it. Aha. Soapy water does work, but not as a spray. Flip them into it and they don't climb back out. They die. Their little wings open up and that's the end.

So there you go. How to control stink bugs.
1. Seal your house against the siege, which really doesn't reduce their numbers and guess what? next year a lot more will be back trying to get inside.
2. Vacuum, wait 10 minutes, vacuum again, rinse and repeat for an hour. This works. Seal up the bag immediately and get it out of the house into the trash barrel. Otherwise, they will crawl back out.
3. Keep a soapy dish in the sink and grab them one or two or three at a time and flip them into it with a good flick of the wrist.

Note that items 2 and 3 will hopefully keep them from increasing in numbers the next season. Presumably, they don't lay their eggs indoors. The rumor is that they lay them in your gutters. Which should be cleaned out with a bleach solution to kill the eggs. Time will tell if that's true. And by next year, we expect that someone will have developed a trap, like we have for japanese beetles.

As for me, I've come to like the smell. No, I'm not kidding. It's like that line from "Apocalypse Now." Yes, that one. "I love the smell of napalm in the morning. It smells like...victory." That smell is the smell of dead or maimed stink bugs. It's a great smell, the smell of victory.

A pic of my stink bug soapy container with evidence. I've already emptied it once. Deaths are now running at about a dozen or so a day.


Frog Out

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Comments

( 14 comments — Leave a comment )
klingonguy
Oct. 18th, 2010 01:24 pm (UTC)
Ugh! Also yuck!
birdhousefrog
Oct. 18th, 2010 01:29 pm (UTC)
you're supposed to be writing nonfic. And how come we can't comment on lj any longer? I don't like that with cross posting, clicking through to a completely different location in order to post my pithy comments on how Virginia is spelled and how what you wrote about sending psychic vibes your way actually proves your comment about an oxymoron and will 15 seconds of laughter do instead?

You were here during a lull after a full attack on them. And Val would not be happy about the hunting spiders showing up.

But yes. Ugh. Yuck. I'm glad so many of us were going after them, because I would have given up in disgust at some point.
klingonguy
Oct. 19th, 2010 06:37 pm (UTC)
I've moved my blog to WordPress, which cross-posts to LJ, but all the comments are back at the main blog.

What's wrong with how I spelled Virginia? (innocent look)
arwensouth
Oct. 18th, 2010 01:37 pm (UTC)
{shudders} This is just so many levels beyond "ew"! We had bedbugs in our last apartment, and I thought that was the worst thing ever, but I'm not sure this doesn't beat that out. How do you sleep at night?!?
birdhousefrog
Oct. 18th, 2010 01:50 pm (UTC)
The bedrooms aren't one of their infestation locations, that's how. Only one or two in there, easily caught and thrown into the bucket in the sink. Or flushed.

I have thousands of books, rugs, lots of STUFF. I can't imagine trying to seal all of that against bedbugs, which, apparently, Won't Die. Stink bugs die. They don't bite me. And I can see them.

But yes. Ewwww.
arwensouth
Oct. 18th, 2010 04:10 pm (UTC)
Bedbugs are extremely hard to get rid of. We basically did it by moving, and when we moved, we put 99% of our stuff in storage over the winter (below-zero temps are supposed to kill them, and we got those that winter). We bought a brand-new bed, and brand-new bedding, and every item of fabric was washed at a laundromat before it came into the house. Now, after 2.5 years, I've finally reached the point where I can sleep through a night without feeling imaginary things crawling over my skin.

Bedbug bites are nasty, too. They turn into little red welts that itch like crazy and last for weeks, if not months. And bedbugs stink a bit, too -- probably not as bad as stinkbugs, but they do have a distinctive, rotting meat sort of odor to them.

It was hellish. I hope to never have to live through anything like that ever again.
barry_king
Oct. 18th, 2010 03:34 pm (UTC)
One night, when I was twelve-ish, as winter came in as it is now doing to you, one of those walked into my snoring mouth. There is nothing in my experience quite so awful as waking up with phosgene-and-chitin coating the molars.
arwensouth
Oct. 18th, 2010 04:02 pm (UTC)
Oh, thanks, Barry. I just ate breakfast -- oatmeal with crunchy little flax seeds in it...now I'm all, "EWWWWWWW!"
birdhousefrog
Oct. 18th, 2010 04:07 pm (UTC)
well, that's what you get for coming BACK to the stink bug post! You end up reading about Barry and his adventures. Which probably led to his taste for kimchi.
arwensouth
Oct. 18th, 2010 04:11 pm (UTC)
That does explain a lot about him, doesn't it?
barry_king
Oct. 19th, 2010 12:49 pm (UTC)
Indeed. Kimchi is one of the few things that can clear the palate after that experience!
(Deleted comment)
birdhousefrog
Oct. 19th, 2010 11:05 am (UTC)
It was TRULY a LOT of stink bugs. I'm not exaggerating about the 'thousands' remarks. This area has been seriously infested with them. Must be something they like around here. I read that you, too, have imported a few from Asia. And yes, when we had a few each year, it wasn't a big deal. Weatherdude and I are very 'live and let live.' We were amazed at how much insect life there is out here compared to the suburbs further east. And we sort of protect it, spiders and all. And before this year (and the chimney infestation) we used to just flip them outdoors again.

I hated the idea of G-Dude using an Ortho product around the exterior, but I felt a level of desperation at that point. I think it's turned out that the vacuuming was at least as effective and far less harmful to other critters. OTOH, there aren't as many outside my office window anymore.
justinhowe
Oct. 19th, 2010 09:20 am (UTC)
Wow. Yeah, that's a lot of bugs.

Just yesterday when I was walking home I noticed that farmers have put up these plastic contraptions in the orchards to catch stink bugs. Looks like a cylinder with an inward pointing funnel at either end. I'm sure you can find something similar at Home Depot. I can take a picture if you want.
birdhousefrog
Oct. 19th, 2010 11:00 am (UTC)
Apparently, this invasion is of Asian origin. There have always been some varieties, but these have taken over in a spectacular way. Supposedly, they arrived via NJ and PA from Asia.

It sounds as if those bags/contraptions are what we use to trap japanese beetles. It's supposed to contain a pheromone that attracts the bugs. One theory here was that the beetle traps just made things worse...but lately I've seen fewer beetles each year. And there's a rumor that next year we'll have the same sort of trap for these guys.

I wish I had a photo of them covering the back of the drapes, but it was just so yuck when I discovered it while vacuuming that my killing instincts took over. It was seriously MIB around here for a few weeks. And the soapy water is working great for the remaining bugs.
( 14 comments — Leave a comment )