It hits the wall with a "thunk." I locate its position. I watch as it creeps along. I sigh. I pick up a tissue and approach it gingerly. The last thing I want to do is crush it. Because if I do, I'm going to regret it. The stink bug didn't get its name because it smells like apple pie baking in the oven.
If you're like me, you are spotting this creepy bug more and more recently. We're seeing one about every couple of days in our house.
According to the Internet, there are more than 4,700 species of stink bugs in the world and 250 of them are in the USA and Canada. It's the brown marmorated stink bug that appears to be on the rise and causing all "the stink." It arrived in the USA in the late 1990s. They think it hitchhiked in container ships from Asia and was first positively identified in Allentown. It continued hitchhiking and is now in 33 states, an increase of eight states since last year. They hitchhike by hiding in people's personal belongings and in cars and when they're picked up by the wind. They have wings and can fly far.
Evidently, the stink bug has few natural predators in the U.S. and is being considered an out-of-control pest. The National Pest Management Association says it's only going to get worse, expecting this season's stink bug population will be larger than before.
The two seasons when people most notice the bugs are in the fall, when they come inside homes looking for warmth and shelter, and in the spring, when they look for ways to come out of hiding.
While they're just a nuisance to me, the bugs can be devastating to farmers.
They feed on crops such as sweet corn, apples, pears, grapes, berries, peaches, tomatoes and peppers and some growers have lost their entire crop to stink bug infestations, adding up to many millions of dollars of losses in crop values.
Stink bugs got their name because of the strong odor they give off when frightened, disturbed or squashed. Their glands produce a defensive compound that repels predators which makes them particularly obnoxious.
We're advised to not handle stinkbugs with bare hands. Some people are allergic to the substance they emit but they aren't poisonous, don't transmit disease, and don't suck blood.
Two USDA agencies, the National Institute of Food and Agriculture and the Agricultural Research Service, fund projects at universities and research centers to study how to control and combat stink bugs, spending about $1.09 million last year.
My friend Renee said two years ago she was in bed sleeping. She got awake because it felt like something was climbing on her leg. Thinking at first it was nothing she tried to go back to sleep. But she felt it again and this time drew back the covers and discovered a stink bug crawling on her leg.
"That was it!" she says. "We had them in the house but finding one in bed with me was the last straw."
They called the exterminator the next day.
"We haven't had one in the house since," she says.
If you go to "HowToGetRidOfStuff.com" on the Internet it will tell you that to get rid of stink bugs you have to first make sure they can't get in your house. It tells you to seal all cracks, windows, holes around your house. But do it in the fall. You can treat the outside of your home with chemical repellants, also in the fall. If all fails, call a professional exterminator.
My sister says every time she finds one she throws it in the toilet and flushes it. Ah, but can they float? Do they drown? Or do they somehow manage to breaststroke their way back? Can you imagine sitting on the toilet one day and ... well, I'm sure you can figure out where I'm heading with this.
I've been wondering if when I throw the one I find in my house outside, is it the same little bugger just coming back in over and over? Just to be on the safe side, from now on I'll wear my hazmat suit, take it outside and kill it.
OK. Now I'm going to tell you another stink bug story. I'm warning you though. It's not for the weak of stomach. It's really stinky!
Ann from our office told me this story about her friend who found a stink bug in her house. Like me, she picked it up, opened her door and threw it outside. She then picked up a cookie and bit into it. She felt a "crunch" and then smelled an awful odor. She spit the cookie out and saw half of a stink bug! She thinks it never left her hand when she thought she threw it out the door.
Are you going, "Ewwwwwww?"
Well, she immediately ran to the bathroom and went through a whole bottle of mouthwash and brushed her teeth several times, trying to get the taste of it out of her mouth.
When Ann told me this story, I wanted to run to the bathroom and wash MY mouth out with a whole bottle of mouthwash! I feel so bad for that poor lady.
So. What have we learned from all this?
Well, for one thing, do not eat anything for two hours after you think you threw a stink bug outside.
Secondly, it's like my old friend from "Saturday Night Live" Roseanne Roseannadanna use to say, "Well, Jane, it just goes to show you, it's always somethingif it ain't one thing, it's another."
Stink bug today, who knows what tomorrow?