SIMPSON: The battle is on to keep stink bugs at bay

Janet Ruth, for a moment I thought they were here. Those pesky stink bugs you told me had infested your northern Virginia home last fall. I did see six or eight of them and felt they were advance scouts crawling on the south side of my house seeking entry.

After capturing some of the bugs, most were identified by the Extension Service as box elder bugs. I hope the real stink bugs don't return bringing their friends.

Regardless of kind, stink bugs or box elder bugs were attracted to my light-colored house when the weather was still mild and the sun was shining. Seems like they were casing the house seeking points of entry. After all, winter is approaching.

I remember you telling me the number of stink bugs on your property was a real nuisance and the bugs were not easily killed. You described how they pushed into cracks and around windows and doors and when you smashed them they had a vile smell. The stink bugs did fit this description, but the box elder bugs didn't bite on touch and seemed harmless even when crushed. They may have been feeding on nearby maple trees. They acted somewhat like stink bugs.

All my visiting bugs, when not crawling on the house, fly around like helicopters landing first on one place and then another. I heard the stink bug caused a $37 million loss to crops in the mid-Atlantic area. These bugs came from Asia and were sighted in Penna in 1998. They munch on grapes, apples, soybeans and tomatoes, and have now been reported in 33 states. Glad they didn't arrive en force.

Natural enemies for these pests seem few and there are limited chemicals one can use to control them. Our pest control company is scheduled to spray around the house this week and maybe they will use bifenthrin, permethrin, tralomethrin or synthetic pyrethroid. Who knows, but the pest control man himself. No guarantee spraying will do the job, so I suppose we must seal cracks and caulk any areas where the bugs can enter the residence. Doors and window will have to be well sealed. Don't let the bugs in, we have been told. Hey, I agree.

Some who have experience with these bugs say if they do get into the house you may find them landing on your face as you sleep or dropping in your plate of food as you eat. They may also come at you from exhaust fans, light fixtures or baseboards. Spooky critters, huh?

A lady at the Extension Service suggested collecting large numbers of bugs in the house by vacuuming them. Those who tried this with stink bugs said your vacuum will then smell like the stink bug.

It looks like a nuisance has arrived at our front door. Stink bug or box elder bug. It matters not. The way is on to keep them out. Problems with infestation are being discouraged around here.

So, Janet, you can keep your stink bugs because the pest control man has sprayed enough around the house to discourage the box elder bugs for now. Haven't seen any more stink bugs.

Jack Simpson is a former educator, veteran, author and a law enforcement officer. His column appears Fridays. For past columns, visit www.rockdalecitizen.com or www.newtoncitizen.com.