Count your many stink bugs

If only ants were on their menu, stink bugs would make even better house pets.

Our family moved back to Tennessee in 2016 to learn that the Volunteer State apparently had become the stink bug capital of the world while we were gone. After relocating hundreds of them in two years, I have come up with a simple solution to the problem.

Learn to love them.

I wrote last year about the high volume of invasive brown stink bugs — apparently a duty-free gift from China — living indoors during cool-weather months.

I even joked that it was too bad stink bugs are not edible — which drew letters from biologists who said stink bugs are indeed rich in protein and a source of food for some cultures.

Because my family does not live among one of those cultures, the issue of stink bugs hanging around inside the house has been a persistent problem. Reading up on stink bugs reveals that they are virtually harmless as long as you do not smash them — which results in their much-deserved name — or suck them into a vacuum sweeper.

Until I became accustomed to their constant indoor presence during winter, stink bugs could scare the living daylights out of me. They will buzz like bumble bees, crawl like spiders, or drop from nowhere into a plate of food or onto your arm.

The bugs’ smash-me-and-regret-it defense system has strangely allowed us to coexist in relative peace. It's gotten to where I hardly ever scream when I go to get a paper towel only to discover a stink bug hanging out on the other side of the roll.

“Hey, little buddy. Want to go outside?” I will ask, as if it's a puppy. “Let's go outside for a while.”

I would prefer that they always dwelled outside, but stink bugs possess qualities other indoor bugs do not.

1. They are slow (think insect version of a sloth) and will not resist efforts to gently pick them up and move them outdoors.

2. They're kind of cute when trying to crawl out of a sink or when they become stuck on their backs.

3. They do not require food or water.

4. Stink bugs never bite, claw or scratch at the door and meow. They simply crawl in under the door.

I will raise one stink about stink bugs: They make terrible guard dogs. A stink bug will stand calmly by and watch as a trail of ants marches off with a sack of doughnuts.

Warm weather is on the horizon, and all the stink bugs that survived winter without getting stuck in a light fixture will soon venture outside. Farewell, my ugly little friends.

By fall, we hope to be moved into a newly constructed house, where tighter windows and doors likely will mean fewer stink bugs making their way inside. Maybe we should keep a window cracked.

New public service announcement: “If you're cold, they're cold. Bring your stink bugs inside!”


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