The Invasion Part 1: Stinkbugs

“Invasion of the Stinkbugs” in the Philadelphia Inquirer (October 19, 2010).

Drifting off to sleep, I’m roused by a faint buzzing from across the room. It quiets, and I start to drift off again. But it resumes, and this time it sounds like a helicopter coming in for a landing on my head.

I thrash, blindly reach for the invader, and find myself cupping it in my hands. I race through a nighttime obstacle course of furniture to the bathroom and hurl the noxious creature into the toilet.

Good night, stinkbug!

I return to bed unable to sleep, knowing that an army of foreign invaders is setting up camp throughout the house. All spring and summer long, the brown marmorated stinkbugs raided our home, and now they are settling down for a long winter’s nap in the eaves, insulation, and boxes of holiday decorations.

Perhaps longing for democracy, the stinkbugs hopped a flight or boat from China a dozen or so years ago, and now they’re quickly making themselves at home. It seems democracy suits them just fine, as does the absence of natural predators.

Yet surely the most powerful country in the world can find a way to combat these stench-ridden critters? Unless the political powers that be simply choose to look the other way. Maybe the invasion is part of a leftist conspiracy to popularize Obama’s “Cash for Caulkers” program, encouraging people to seal up their homes to keep out the bugs as well as the cold air.

The political ramifications don’t end there. With Election Day approaching, debates about securing our borders and giving stinkbugs a path to citizenship are sure to come up. Arizona lawmakers could make it legal for exterminators to detain all shield-shaped insects, regardless of odor.

While a government solution to the stinkbug invasion gets tied up in political debate, we are left to our own wits. And judging by the homegrown solutions being bandied about, we’re at our wits’ end.

Countless combinations of fluids, from hair spray to bleach to Mr. Clean, have been suggested by inventive homeowners. Rubbing dryer sheets on your window screens is supposed to help. So are giving your entire house a bubble bath, sucking the bugs up in a vacuum cleaner, dropping them in a mixture of water and broken-up cigarettes (I suppose tobacco will kill anything eventually), and doing the hokey pokey.

For farmers, the stinkbugs are more than just a nuisance; they’re feasting on apples, peaches, corn, soybeans, and more. And I’m afraid the needed help won’t come in the form of Febreze crop dusters or John Deere vacuum attachments.

I trust a solution will be found, but until then I’ll lie awake knowing I’m harboring the enemy. And should they decide to strike again, I’ll have a can of hair spray at the ready.

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