the Big Stink

Bugs.  To  most of us that word encompasses any of a million things that might crawl up your leg, but to an entomologist, true bugs are a specific order of insect, hemiptera.  These insects with the shield like wing cover have become the bane of our spring farming life.  Unfortunately we have gotten to know them pretty well and, quite frankly, they stink.  These stink bugs will feed on practically anything in our garden from squash and cucumbers to eggplant and tomatoes.  They don’t take big bites out of the fruit or chew holes in the leaves but they use their pointy proboscis to pierce the fruit of the plant and suck out its juices. The worst is what they do to our tomatoes.  Many get speckled and almost crusty because these stinkers were slurping their tomato-flavored shakes through their needle noses. Even our kind-hearted intern Susan has declared boldly, “I do not like them”.    In the battle between insects and humans, stink bugs boast a tough exoskeleton and we have an ostensibly large brain.and, more importantly, Dust Busters. That’s right, a hand vacuum has been our weapon against the stink bugs.  We are not averse to squishing them, even though that is the best way to have them live up to their stinky name, but paradoxically, the scent that is released when they are crushed is actually an aggregation pheromone, meaning that the smell will attract other stink bugs.  (Morbid curiosity apparently is not a trait monopolized by our species.)   Vacuuming and squishing eggs when we find them is akin emptying the ocean with a thimble, I suppose.  But it works better than a feather duster and the mop experiment was really a waste of time.

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