I long for Vincent Price—not in his movies—but in his Zapper commercials, in which he killed bugs with the sound of “ZAP” and grinned manically while his wife rolled her eyes in the background. Why? I’m being driven nuts by stink bugs.
Writers have favorite places to read and write. My favorite place is on my screen porch. Even though the screen is supposed to keep the bugs out, they seem to have their own Enigma machine aiding them to infiltrate my private lair. At night, I hear the whoosh of moth wings on the porch light, annoying enough, but now I hear the clunk of primeval stink bug fuselage hitting my light and siding. Has this happened to you?
Last night, it took me three tries to kill a *%# stink bug. Their flat bodies are such that a whack with a rolled up magazine or fly swatter sometimes doesn’t do the job. They hide in crevices lying in wait to annoy us in as many ways as they are in number. But my problems with the nasty critters pale beside those of farmers in the Mid-Atlantic region, especially Pennsylvania, Maryland and Virginia.
As I reported last fall, U.S. Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (MD) set up a tri-state commission to study the bug and find solutions preventing the pest’s destruction. Although stink bugs will eat just about anything, fruit crops have been hit the worst, especially apples and peaches. Apple orchards in Catoctin, MD have reported a 50% destruction rate, the worst so far. Other orchards have reported 30-40% in reduced yields. The U. S. Department of Agriculture estimates that 18% ($37 million) of the Mid-Atlantic region’s apple crop has been destroyed by stink bugs.
(I wonder if Sheila Connolly will include the stink bug as a problem for her protagonist in her apple orchard series.)
Some scientists are focusing on keeping the stink bug population under control using a similar technique used on the Japanese beetles. Bag-a-bug uses chemicals that attract and trap the insect. So far, none is on the market for stink bugs.
The chemical, dinotefuran, which is manufactured by the Japanese company, Mitsui Chemicals, seems the most promising. Mitsui Chemicals applied and gained approval from EPA for its use on vegetable crops, but it is not currently approved for orchard use. The state of Virginia seeks an exemption from EPA for dinotefuran’s application in orchards. If approved, the exemption will enable its use in other states as well, starting as soon as July.
Other scientists are dubious of using pesticides because the stink bug is so mobile and productive, killing one community of stink bugs allows another to move into the orchard. The alternative to chemicals is a natural predator of the stink bug, a parasitic wasp—but it must be determined if the predator wasp will cause more problems than it is worth.
Meanwhile, I spray chemicals around the parameter of my house in hope of keeping not only the stink bug at bay, but also camel crickets, which totally gross me out. A cross between a spider and a cricket, camel crickets can jump many feet in the air (usually at you as you try to smack them) and have soft bodies that squish when you successfully attack. While the horseshoe crab may have served as the predator alien in the movie Aliens, the camel cricket serves as my prototype for horror creatures and nightmares. Although writing on my porch in fall and spring can be a chilly experience, writing on the porch during summer can induce paranoia.
Has your writing been effected by pests?
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 Carolyn Mulford on 5/25 and Liz Mugavero on 6/1. If you are interested in being a guest blogger, send a message to Jim Jackson at email@example.com.