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A "Houseguest" That'll Leave You Gasping

Southeast Alaskas Island News of Thorne Bay, Alaska

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Stop the merry-go-round, I want to get off!

That's how I feel about all the new grown-up toys out theregadgets smaller than a deck of cards, on which you can watch a movie, make a date, file your taxes, find the Meaning of Life - all on a screen about the size of 4 postage stamps. But the thing is, the older I get, the more I want the screen to be bigger, not smaller!

So I admit I can't keep up with all the "new stuff that's flooding in. I also admit that I'm losing track of time (sort of), and when someone says, "Oh, that happened in 1988," I think, "Well, that was just a couple of years ago, wasn't it?"

Thus I was rather startled to read that a nasty pest called Halyomor-pha halys the fancy name for the brown marmorated stink bug has actually only been in this country for about eight years, first discovered in Allentown, Pa. Obviously I'm thinking of a stink bug cousin, because I know stink bugs were one of the familiar pests of my childhood, along with stinging scorpions (seriously bad news if you're bare-footed, as we perpetually were" in summer) and "sweat bees," the demons of the summer softball field.

Still, for being "the new kid in town," the brown marmorated stink bug has covered a lot of territory in those scant 8 years. It's now been detected in parts of Virginia, West Virginia, New Jersey, Delaware, Oregon and Maryland. That's what I'd call one map-hopping bug!

The scientists of the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) have been keeping a wary eye on these armored pests, because they already know the stink bugs are a threat to cotton, corn & soybeans. What's more, ARS scientists in West Virginia have seen them feasting in apple orchards, and in Asia, these bugs chow down on ornamental plants, soybeans, apples, peaches, figs, mulberries, citrus fruits & persimmons. (They also eat weeds, but of course we'd never be lucky enough for them to choose weeds as their favorite food!)

But don't think that if you're not a farmer, stink bugs aren't going to bug you, because when the weather turns nippy, these nasty critters love to come indoors in your doors, that is. When they start looking for a warm place to pass the winter, they will wiggle in through any available crack in a house or building. Once inside your home, they have no intention or means of harming you physically, but if you squash them or suck them up with your vacuum cleaner ... yes, you guessed it, they put up a heck of a stink.

Funnily enough, a different kind of "stink" could prove to be their undoing, according to the scientists at ARS. Adult male stink bugs often produce scents, called pheromones, meant to tempt the female stink bugs to come a little bit closer closer closer.

In Japan, the brown-winged green bug, Plautia stali a cousin of our newly arrived stink bug produces a pheromone that's a single compound. The Japanese are using that compound in a commercial trap to lure the green bugs away from where they're not wanted. The ARS scientists got their hands on that Japanese compound, made a synthetic copy of it and put it in experimental traps designed to monitor populations of our newly Americanized brown stink bug.

Copyright 2009 Southeast Alaska's Island News, Thorne Bay, Alaska. All Rights Reserved. This content, including derivations, may not be stored or distributed in any manner, disseminated, published, broadcast, rewritten or reproduced without express, written consent from SmallTownPapers, Inc.

Original Publication Date: August 17, 2009

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