The Stink Bug Whisperer

Just when you thought it was safe to go back to bed…

Lock the windows and bolt the doors!  Watch out Mr. Bed Bug.  There’s a new kid in town and his name is Mr. Stink Bug.  You thought bed bugs were bad?  You ain’t seen, or rather smelled, nothin’ yet.  The Brown Marmorated Stink Bugs (BMSB)  allegedly stowed away on-board an American bound container ship from their natural habitat somewhere in Southeast Asia.  They first landed in Allentown, Pennsylvania around the turn of the century, the twenty-first century, that is.   Since then they have migrated to 29 states. Here in the Peach State where I live, 81 out of a total 151 counties have reported some degree of stink bug invasion and experts predict that the mid-Atlantic region is headed for a stink bug population explosion of biblical proportions.  The good news, according to health officials, is that stink bugs don’t transmit diseases nor do they pose a serious health threat.  You might be led to speculate that stink bugs are relatively harmless, unless you are a farmer.  Or eat food grown on farms, which pretty much covers everybody.  Stink bugs are wreaking havoc on fruit and vegetable crops creating the potential for wide spread economic hardship and food shortages across the country.  The scary thing is that on this entire continent, stink bugs have no natural predators and they are resistant to many of the current chemical pesticides approved for agricultural use by the EPA.  15 members of congress recently signed a letter in September appealing to Agriculture Secretary, Tom Vlisack and EPA Administrator, Lisa P. Jackson to allow farmers to use pesticides not currently approved, “If we fail to take action, damage from this insect could prove to be a national crisis.”

We Georgians love it when the weather turns cool after a long hot summer.  Stink bugs do not.   Unfortunately, right about now, they’re all trying to keep warm.  City stink bugs are headed for the shelter of urban office buildings while the country stink bugs are crawling their way into comfy, cozy suburban homes like yours and mine.  If you invite a stink bug into your home, you better plan to have him around for awhile because currently there is no way to get rid of the little stinkers.  They don’t bite or sting, but they are a stinky, I meam STINKY nuisance.  Yep.  Literally, they stink.  Do you know that impulse you have to scream wildly and stomp on any creepy crawly thing that has the nerve to run across your floor?  Shut up.  Don’t lie.  We all have it.  Anyway, YOU HAVE GOT TO LEARN TO CONTROL YOURSELF because stink bugs stink when they are squished.  That’s right.  So don’t step on a stink bug, don’t smash one with a rolled up newspaper, don’t swat one with a fly swatter, and whatever you do, NEVER, EVER make a stink bug nervous.  You are not going to believe this, and I swear it’s true (cross my heart and hope to die, stick a needle in my eye), but when stink bugs feel threatened or anxious, they emit a strong, pungent odor.  Some report the odor as musty and skunk-like.  There are others who say the stink bug smell is noxious like ammonia.  I’ve even heard it said that the smell resembles cilantro (after a few margaritas, maybe).  Would you believe there are still others who claim not to be bothered by the smell at all?

There is no way I will ever be so blessed as to count myself among the few who aren’t bothered by the stink bug stench, so I have to pose this question.  How exactly does one tell if a stink bug is anxious or feeling threatened?  Do his little palms perspire?  Is he jumpy or on edge?  Does he have trouble falling asleep at night?  I do not know, but I’ll tell you this much.  If I find a stink bug in my house I will do everything in my power to keep him calm.  That’s right.  Laugh at me all you want.  Call me the Stink Bug Whisperer, but my house will not have that unmistakable musty-skunk-noxious-ammonia-cilantro bed bug smell.  Not if I can help it.  Good night.  Sleep tight.

(Sources: The Washington Post, ABC News, The Baltimore Sun (2),


Good night. Sleep Tight. Don’t let the bed bugs bite.

Bed bugs are about the size of an apple seed.

Bed Bugs are taking over the United States.  There’s no getting around it.  It’s just a matter of time.  Lately you can’t watch the news without hearing about some college dormitory or hotel being evacuated as a result of Cimex lectularius (that’s Latin for bed bug) infestation.  When I first heard about the rash of bed bug infestations the news came from my mom and I’ll be honest, I didn’t give much thought to the story.  You see my mom is the reaper of bad news.  Every family needs a bad news reaper.  You know, the people who have radar for stuff like product recalls, tainted food scares, inclement weather advisories, flu epidemics, anthrax and the terrorists living next door, stuff like that.  While I would estimate that my mom is right about things of this nature roughly 99.9% of the time, remember we are Italian so it is genetically impossible for her to deliver any sort of news sans histrionics (think Moonstruck and My Big Fat Greek Wedding for effect).  If I have any hope of freedom from anxiety, I must assume a “take it with a grain of salt” attitude.  Couple this with the fact that I only ever thought of bed bugs in the context of stuff like Humpty Dumpty and the Little Piggy that cries wee-wee-wee all the way home, and you can see why I gave little credence to the possibility that bed bugs could be mounting an attack on American soil.  Honestly, until recently the only time I ever thought of bed bugs at all was when I tucked my sons into bed as very young children.  Bed bugs were part of my nightly mantra…” I love you. Don’t forget to say your prayers.  Good night.  Sleep tight.  Don’t let the bed bugs bite.”  And sometimes for good measure I’d throw in, “…and if they do, be sure to bite ‘em back.”  This rendered several minutes of tickling and belly laughing, especially by Jared, but now he just rolls his eyes.  (He’s fifteen, but I still try to tuck him in at night.)  Anyway, the point is I never thought of bed bugs as anything more than creatures invented by Italian mothers to insure you changed your sheets every week.  Now I know I was dead wrong.

Bed bugs are very real.   They love warm, cozy places, which is why they like spooning in bed with you, but don’t be fooled by the cute name.  In addition to mattresses and box springs, bed bugs like to stow away in all sorts of places made from fabric, wood, and paper: upholstered furniture, bed frames, behind wall paper and picture frames, cracked plaster, window and door frames, flooring cracks and carpets, baseboards, ceiling moldings, draperies, and electrical boxes to name a few.  Bed bugs are as slim as the width of a credit card, and squeeze themselves into just about any crack or crevice; unless of course, they are engorged with blood…your blood.  They are nasty, noxious, nefarious, nocturnal little vampires who feed, or rather feast, on the blood of their prey.   Given the chance, they will pierce you with their beak-like mouths and inject anesthetic into your skin, which allows them to go undetected as they suck your blood.  Bed bugs are not poisonous, but their bites can cause itchy irritating welts or rashes on your skin.  They are not known to transmit blood-related diseases and according to experts, there is no known serious health risk of any kind associated with bed bugs.  EXPERTS!  SCHMEXPERTS!  I’ll give you “no known serious health risk!” ARE YOU KIDDING ME?  Like their creepy crawly cousins, the cock roach and spider, bed bugs are the root cause of a syndrome of symptoms collectively known as the Heebie-Jeebies.  Symptoms of the Heebie-Jeebies include scratching of the phantom itch mostly on the head and other difficult to reach areas of the body; frequent involuntary shivers, shakes, and shudders; insomnia; and pathological avoidance of potentially high bed bug traffic public places (i.e. Niketown in New York City, hotels, movie theaters, public transportation, etc.).  A general feeling of grossed-out ickiness and anxiety paralyzes sufferers of the Heebie-Jeebies so do not tell me that bed bugs don’t present a health threat, or worse a threat to national security.  I am serious.

The experts are hypothesizing that the EPA’s ban on DDT is to blame for the recent surge in bed bug infestations as well as our difficulty in eradicating them, but I have a different theory.  I say it’s biological warfare.  That’s right.  Osama bin Laden hasn’t just been spelunking around in desert caves, making crude videos.  No sireebub.  He’s been genetically engineering pesticide resistant bed bugs for the last ten years.  Mark my words.  In his next crackling low resolution Youtube video, Osama bin Laden will take credit for this new trend in biological warfare; bed bugs of mass destruction.

You forget, Mr. bin Laden, we are Americans.  We have stood united against the threat of terrorist pests in the past and we will do it again!  We will not be paralyzed by bin Laden bed bug induced Heebie-Jeebies!  The joke is on you.  HAHAHA.  Good night.  Sleep tight.   Don’t let the bed bugs bite.