Writing Well Is The Best Revenge, I recently read a blog about bedbugs. (They don’t like them-especially when they have to travel and stay in hotels.) That blog put bugs on my brain (I don’t like them either.) and I started to notice bugs everywhere, specifically stinkbugs. While the stinkbug does not harm humans like the bedbug, which feeds on human blood like a vampire, stinkbugs damage crops. Now, I’m seeing them all over the place, not just a few, but a lot.
A thunderstorm rolled in, and I raced around my Virginia home closing windows. As I shut each window, I noticed about six to ten stinkbugs on each screen. I have about 20 windows in my house and that comes to about one hundred-sixty bugs just on my windows. Then, I visited my sister in Pennsylvania. We sat out on her screen porch talking. I noticed stinkbugs littering the screens of her porch and some had infiltrated the porch, much to the Purr (Jaspurr and Caspurr) brothers’ interest. So, I’m thinking, what’s with all these stinkbugs?
Here’s my report for everyone else who has noticed this strange phenomenon and dares ask.
Much to my surprise, I found that the stinkbug is not indigenous to the U.S. It came to this country accidentally from East Asia through Eastern Pennsylvania. The Brown Marmorated Stink Bug (BMBS-how’s that for an appropriate acronym) was first noticed in Allentown, PA in September 1998. It now resides along the Eastern Seaboard, but hitched rides to the West Coast and has been spotted in California and Oregon. The middle of the country has yet to see the Pentatomidae. In the bugs’ native China, Japan, Korea and Taiwan, stinkbugs are pests that damage crops, and the bugs are now damaging our Mid-Atlantic region’s crops due to their great reproductive capabilities. Stinkbugs have no known predators in the U. S.
Fall’s cooler temperatures attract stinkbugs to houses, the reason I’m noticing them now. Much like other bugs and rodents, when colder weather sets in, the stinkbug tries to find a warm place to hibernate for the winter. Our first instinct when we see bugs is to tromp on them. This isn’t the best method for dealing with stinkbugs because when crushed, their “stink” is released. Stinkbugs use the odor as a natural defense against their predators who would love to eat them if only they didn’t stink. Okay, so the stink isn’t pleasant, but there’s an even worse reason not to crush them. Like a homing device, the stink becomes a marker that they sense, flashing a neon “Welcome” sign, which brings them back to the same place even a year later. Don’t try vacuuming them unless you already need a new vacuum.
Pesticides are not recommended when houses are infested. Pesticides are harmful to humans. Although they will kill hundreds of stinkbugs, those dead bugs caught behind walls and in other unreachable areas attract carpet beetles, which, unbothered by the stench, will munch on the dead bodies, multiply and eat through every woolen item in your home.
Pottstown, PA is so disturbed by them that citizens have posted killing methods on their cleverly named town blog, Pottstown's Blog. One successful method, which will kill the stinkbugs and render them less tasty to carpet beetles, is disgusting. Take a half pack of cigarettes and soak them in one half gallon of water, let stand, and then strain into a spray bottle and aim. Remember to wear gloves. Nicotine is poisonous and can be absorbed through skin.
Now, what does all this have to do with writing? Including natural phenomena, such as bugs, in your manuscript adds an interesting and real touch. My setting is the Outer Banks, N.C. timed during the month of September, the buggiest month of the year. Anyone who has been to the Outer Banks in late summer can tell you about the mosquitoes. Dare County, which encompasses southern Bodie and Hatteras Islands, pays for nightly drive-by killing sprees. Pesticide trucks cruise through neighborhoods releasing toxic fumes. Not an environmentally sound policy, but if you have spent time on the Outer Banks at this time of year, you would shudder to think how many more bugs would exist had they cut the hit men from the budget.
A few weeks ago, I was on Hatteras Island enjoying the evening while reading on a roofed upper deck. The deck light was on and, as it got dark, bugs became attracted to the light. The darkness interfered with my reading, so I closed my book and started toward the door with the intention of continuing my reading inside. When I looked toward the light located near the door, I found an eerie scene closely resembling one in Hitchcock’s “The Birds.” Moths lined the roof of the deck and around the wall surrounding the light, like vacant aircraft. I moved silently so as not to disturb the insects when a large bug flew at the light and started screaming. Trapped on an upper deck outside without another way to get into the house, I freaked. A friend unlocked and opened a sliding glass door further down the deck. I surprised her by jumping in and slamming the door shut.
We later found out that the large bug was a cicada. I knew they buzzed loudly, but before that night, had never heard them scream, which just may be an interesting effect in my paranormal novel and another way to torture my poor protagonist, Abby Jenkins. After learning about the stinkbugs, I’m now contemplating an infiltration of stinkbugs in Abby’s champagne and sparkling wine store, adding that “truth is stranger than fiction” element, lending validity to fictional trauma.
Has anyone else noticed stinkbugs?
(Evidently, others have noticed stinkbugs. Two days after writing this blog, The Washington Post’s front page included an article entitled, “Big bug trouble that’s tough to squash” by Lena H. Sun (9/25/10). Allentown, Ms. Sun agrees, was the site of first discovery, but contends that the year was 2001, not 1998 cited in other articles I’ve read. Maryland Representative Roscoe Bartlett sent a letter signed by fifteen other U.S. Representatives to the Department of Agriculture and the Environmental Protection Agency to “take immediate action to limit damage caused by” stinkbugs. Because the bug has no predators, working groups have formed among several states’ agricultural departments and state universities to study this problem.)
WWK Blogger Paula Gail Benson has two short stories running in Kings River Life Magazine this weekend, "Pelican Spring" and "The Mama Factor." Both are Mother's Day short stories. You can read them by going to: http://kingsriverlife.com/category/kings-river-reviewers/terrific-tales/
Linda Rodriguez is a finalist in two categories for the International Latino Book Awards (given out at BEA the end of May)--one for Every Last Secret and one for editing Woven Voices: 3 Generations of Puertorriquena Poets Look at Their American Lives (with Gloria Vando, Anika Paris, and Anita Velez-Mitchell). Congratulations, Linda!
The second SinC Guppy anthology, Fish Nets, has been released by Wildside Press. WWK authors, Gloria Alden, Warren Bull, Kara Cerise and E. B. Davis have short stories in this volume, which can be bought at Wildside Press, the usual retailers and will be available at the Malice Domestic Conference. Look for "the story behind the stories" on May 1 here!
Upcoming Salad Bowl Saturdays include authors Sasscer Hill on 5/18 and Carolyn Mulford on 5/25. If you are interested in being a guest blogger, send a message to Jim Jackson at firstname.lastname@example.org.