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Stinkbugs for Breakfast

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

I've mentioned some of the prey items taken by Carolina wrens. One thing I noticed in the time I spent observing the family: The wrens seemed to bring the same species of insect all day long, then switch to another species the next day. It was really interesting. For instance, there were two Daddy Longlegs Days in a row, and then they switched to camel crickets, and brought those almost exclusively for an entire day. And then...they switched to green stinkbugs. I couldn't believe my eyes. They knocked all the legs off them, just as they did the daddy longlegs (but didn't bother to do with the camel crickets). Even legless, there was no mistaking the peculiar oblong, beveled, emerald green bodies of the stinkbugs. Imagine!!

I run into a stinkbug on a raspberry or mulberry and even tasting where it was sitting makes me gag. Imagine having your mom ram one down your throat. OK, now imagine having her and Dad offer them to you all day long.

This baby wouldn't swallow another stinkbug. He was fed up with them. So Mom had to remove the bug and offer it to someone else.

He just kept his mouth open and refused to swallow it, so she plucked it back out and gave it to the baby to his left.

Now you would think, as bad as they smell and taste, that stinkbugs would be much too noxious and maybe even poisonous to Carolina wrens. Apparently not, but there is always the picky baby to contend with. These birds taught me so much!

I've spent part of today soaking the Bird Spa dish in a strong bleach solution, then scrubbing it a million times with Comet, trying to remove the oxidation and algae stains that permeate its rough surface. The stains look better, but aren't gone. And as soon as I put away the hose, giving it the last rinse and fill, the birds started coming: families of seven tufted titmice at a time, pairs of cardinals, goldfinches, chickadees, red-winged blackbirds, mourning doves. It's a party out there, and well worth the considerable effort to keep it as clean as possible. Speaking of effort: It's a horrible feather mite year; most of my cardinals are bald, and I get a load of mites on my arms every time I visit my bluebird boxes. I've been changing nests and scrubbing boxes, trying to stem the infestations. Today I power-washed the feeders for good measure. I figure the least I can do is keep their bath and feeders clean. Every now and then an errant mite, left over from my constant dealings with birds and their trappings, runs along my eyebrow or my neck, and it sends me into a frenzy of itching. It's not the first time I've been glad I'm not a bird. Imagine carrying thousands of 'em in your feathers all the time.

And having your mom serve stinkbugs for breakfast AGAIN.


FASCINATING! (...and reminds me a bit of brussel sprouts! ;-)

Stink Bugs!!!??? Like the lima beans of the bird world.

gee, very interesting observation this daily dietary specialization; wonder if it's commonplace among songbirds (or wrens), and is there anything in the literature about it???

I seem to recall reading a few yrs back, when bees were infested with mites, that some bee keepers planted herbs of some sort outside the hives and that repelled the mites. I can't recall if it was mints, or thyme, or some other plant with a volitile oil I guess.
It might be interesting to experiment with some dried herbs in the bottoms of the cleaned boxes to see it repelled anything. Or maybe get some essential oil to spray in the insides of the boxes.

Feather mites - yuck! I missed my nestbox changes on the purple martins this year. By the time I came back from North Carolina, they were too close to fledging to lower the gourd rack. So, poor things just have to suffer, I'm afraid.

"Mom! Not stinkbugs again!"
"Let's give 'em to Mikey!"
"Yeah, he won't eat 'em. He hates everything."


Martineers have experimented with many things inside martin housing to repel mites and other nest parasites - DE, cedar shavings, even moth balls and 8-in-1 mite discs (sold for pet birds.)

The problem is two-fold: toxicity (in the case of moth balls and mite discs) and the potential for respiratory problems (dust from DE, volatile oils from cedar, etc.)

Planting things *outside* a bee hive is one thing, having developing baby bird airways surrounded by irritants in a confined space 24-7 for 2 weeks (bluebirds) or 4 weeks (martins) is another. My humble opinion is that there is the potential for harm here.

Nest changes are thought to be the most effective and least toxic option to control nest parasites, although you will hear other opinions, certainly.


Your stink bugs are green? Ours, here in central PA, are brown.

How lucky to have a nest where you can catch all the day to day activities. I have Carolina Wrens all over but no nests I can keep track of.

I use Avian Insect Liquidator on all my Lovebirds nest and cages. Also spray it around the humming bird feeder to keep the sugar ants away. It might work on your feeding stations...good for mites, lice, roaches, spiders etc.

Blecchhh, and yet, how good can REGULAR bugs taste?

Whoa. I didn't know they were stinkbugs, but I routinely flick little beveled beetles off my raspberries before I pop them in my mouth, and I THOUGHT they tasted weird. I figgered it was just my imagination.

I love this post and the other Wren posts... This one is so funny I can't stand it. I'll have stinkbugs on my mind all day and might even have lima beans for dinner.

Sorry about those mites...

I thought that birds didn't have taste buds?? I know that some bird seed has red pepper in it to repel squirrels, but not birds. Can they actually taste the bug?

When those babies grow up, I am sure they will be visiting a bird psychologist to discuss why their mom insisted on feeding them stink bugs. LOL! I can just hear it now... "You used to refuse them, and then she'd take it out of your mouth and cram it down mine!"

Your photographs are very nice. I like the one being fed.

YIKES! I hate bird mites! In my reincarnation-as-a-bird dreams, I am mite-less.

Hey, it's my dream.

I once got a shot of stink-bug juice in my EYE. Holy moly, did that sting--for days. I also couldn't see out of that eye for at least a day.

I love that when one baby wouldn't swallow, the bug was simply offered to a hungrier mouth.


Attitude in a couple-ounce package.

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