wpostServer: http://css.washingtonpost.com/wpost2

Most Read: Local

Rosenwald, Md.
E-mail E-mail |  On Twitter Follow |  RSS RSS Feed
Posted at 10:54 AM ET, 02/16/2012

What happened to the stink bugs?


(The evil, no good, annoying stink bug. (Matt Rourke AP))
Early this fall, I prepared for war.

I went to Lowe’s. I bought new insulation for the front door. I bought the strongest bug killing liquid that U.S. dollars could buy. I did not read “The Art of War,” but it crossed my mind.

It was me versus the stink bugs, and I was not going to lose.

I commenced war preparations at my Germantown compound with hair-raising memories of 2010, when sheets of the enemy would cover my front door like a fresh coat of brown paint. My wife and I spent many evenings as campers in our own house, swatting stink bugs instead of ignoring each other while scrolling on our iPads.

But the war I had so diligently prepared for never erupted.

Sure, I’ve flushed at least a dozen stink bugs this fall and winter, but there were no nights like in 2010, when we were flushing a dozen before dipping spoons into our ice cream for dessert.

So what happened?

I called the Bug Guy. That’s Mike Raupp, a University of Maryland professor of entomology. He had good news. He also had bad news.

Good news first: The Bug Guy confirmed that there has, in fact, been a noticeable decline in stink bugs in the region. While there are lots of theories about why, Raupp is partial to the one in which 2010 was the exception and 2011 is more typical.

In 2010, we had an early warm spring, which greatly accelerated stink bug development. By late summer, the enemies had completed their first generation and were on to their second. “It was spectacularly rapid development,” the Bug Guy said. “It was incredible.”

In 2011, things changed. The temperatures were a bit more middling. Also, we had tremendous rain falls with Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee. Rain is really bad for stink bugs, particularly the baby ones. It knocks them off leaves.

“A stink bug being blasted by a water droplet is the equivalent of being smacked in the face with a bowling ball,” the Bug Guy said. “Once you are on the ground you are in real trouble. Spiders, ground beetles, predatory centipedes are just waiting to gobble you up.”

(The Bug Guy is so plain spoken. I love it.)

He also thinks that some predators have developed a taste for stink bugs. Perfect: Let them do the dirty work.

“That’s very good news,” he said.

Now for the bad.

The Bug Guy is a bit concerned that our novel and relative lack of winter this year will create conditions like 2010, giving stink bugs ample time to reload. This would be very, very bad. “We could be back in the same predicament as 2010,” he said. “We’ll just have to wait and see.”

Let us not focus on a new stink bug war just yet. Let us bask in the glory of 2011. But do tell me: Did you notice a stink bug decline this year?

By  |  10:54 AM ET, 02/16/2012

Tags:  Environment, Maryland

 
Read what others are saying
     

    © 2011 The Washington Post Company