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The Six Hundred Dollar Stinkbug

Saturday, January 21, 2023

 The brown marmorated stinkbug, Halyomorpha halys, has been in America since it was accidentally introduced from China or elsewhere in Asia to Allentown, PA in 1998. That is not very far from me as the stinkbug flies. The blasted things have spread like wildfire. I saw my first one while visiting a friend in Loudon Co. Virginia maybe 10 years ago. I took a hand towel out of the linen closet and this big gross stinkbug fell out of it. There were more. They were everywhere. He said the side of his house had seethed with them that fall. It wasn't long before they started coming to spend the winter in my house in Ohio. 

I had to laugh the other day when someone asked me on Facebook what I do with stinkbugs in my house. Do I rescue them, take them outside? Should she?  I was like, man, I kill those things any way I can. I can't even count the ways I hate them. I was bemused that she seemed to want someone's permission to kill them. 

I have a favorite orchid that I've been propagating since 2005. Encyclia cordigera has not looked this good in my windows for many a year. This orchid can perfume the entire back of the house when it's in bloom.

These photos are from 2018. I haven't seen blossoms like this for at least five years. 

All because of stinkbugs.

You see, when brown marmorated stinkbugs invade your house in winter, they need to eat, so they look for tender young plant sprouts to sink their needle-sharp snoots into. After a couple years of utter mystery as to why the bloom spikes of my precious orchids always turned black and withered away, I finally caught a brown marmorated stinkbug red-footed, sucking the life out of a new bloom spike. 

So that's all I need now, with deer suddenly eating everything outside, is to have stinkbugs IN MY HOUSE ruining my houseplants, sucking the life from new unfolding leaves as well as flower stalks. 

The little spikes Encyclia cordigera sends out start out tiny and lengthen daily. It takes them weeks to mature, weeks in which the stinkbugs are free to plunder them and ensure that I get no beautiful purple blossoms to perfume my rooms.

I've tried so many times to cover them in netting but the stinkbugs almost always get in and kill them. 
I can't even describe how depressing it is to nurture plants for a year, waiting for that ONE SPIKE, and have it end up like this. No, the plant won't make a replacement spike. It's done until this time next year.

Last year I managed to save one spike, but I had to look at this for about eight weeks.

Only when the flowers unfurl and harden off completely is it safe to unwrap them.

This year I have wrapped the growing points in several layers of Saran and taped them up as securely as I can, given that they're still growing. We'll see how that works. When the spikes get too long to wrap like this, I'm planning to use nylon mesh paint strainers (the same ones I use on milkweed plants to protect monarch caterpillars from predatory, uh, STINKBUGS in late summer.

Like this one, genus Podisus, which I found last summer with a last-instar monarch caterpillar hanging dead from its piercing strawlike mouthpart. It looks strikingly similar to a brown marmorated stinkbug. It met the same fate. Growl.

My plastic-wrapped Encyclias. The fun never stops. Seems like everything I love to grow has its own wrecking crew, even inside my home.

It gets worse. Last summer my not-spectacularly-trusty John Deere x300 lawn tractor started having a new problem. It would run OK for a little while, then start to surge, and suddenly die, just like it was running out of gas. I'd have to leave it until it cooled down, and most of the time I could get it started and running long enough to get it back to the garage, but whatever I needed it for was off the day's To Do list.
 It was Not Convenient. 

My dear neighbor Bill W. helped me. He put a new fuel filter on it, and then a new fuel pump. Each time we put a new part on it, we thought we had it covered. But then it did it again a couple weeks ago while I was happily hauling winter brush. Just up and quit way out the meadow. 

I let it sit, used starting fluid on it the next morning in a light snowfall, and when it roared back to life, I just barely limped back to the garage before it surged, weakened and quit for good, dead as a donut.

It was time to call Bridgeport Equipment, bite the bullet, and pay through the nose to have them come out and pick up the tractor and finally diagnose what was wrong with it.

Days went by. Almost a week. I knew they didn't have many tractors in for repair. I started to lose hope.
And finally I got a call. 
They'd set my tractor up with what they called a "donor tank."

I loved that. Like dialysis for a tractor. 
And it ran fine. Then they knew there was something wrong in the fuel tank or line.
And guess what that something was. 
Being a Science Chimp, I appreciated the little baggie stapled to the invoice.

There was a stinkbug IN MY FUEL TANK.
Blocking the fuel line to a trickle. 
Making my life even more beautiful.

For those who wonder, "Misc" is what they charged me to come out and get my tractor, and drop it off, because I don't have a truck to haul it myself. 

Now you've seen a 632 dollar stinkbug. Isn't that special?

They make it mighty hard to have nice things.


As I commented on Instagram, our house (in NW Oregon) has been infested for MONTHS. I've always wondered what they eat. I don't THINK they've bothered by phalaenopsis orchids, but I'll be examining them closely from now on. Ugh. More reasons to hate them is right....

Waitwaitwait Michelle, NW Oregon? Gaaaaah

This is too awful for me to read. I'm sensitive. I even reacted to "dead as a donut."

We've had stink bugs for some years, being within 100 miles of Allentown, PA. (Is that what Billy Joel was singing about?)
Anyway...been long enough that they are far less ubiquitous than earlier. BUT in their place...spotted lantern flies. It's one thing to kill by any means possible ugly bugs...but beautiful spotted lantern flies? No problem...I walk up to one facing it and STOMP. They are quick jumpers but facing them seems to even up the battle.
Sigh--international trade. Thanks for... what?

I have stink bugs in my area too. About two hours drive from Allentown, across the river in Southern NJ. We see them, get them in house, but so far I haven't noticed damage...probably because I didn't know they were so adept at it. I save Black Swallowtail butterfies every summer and also try to save Monarchs. Monarchs are definitely more of a challenge. Thanks for the great article. My method of disposal, the toilet bowl. reply to KGMOM. I did the Lanternfly stomp too. Have you noticed they seem to expire quickly on concrete for some reason?

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