Sweep Up Those Stink Bugs
This article by Christine Gelley was originally published in The Journal on January 16, 2017.
The brown marmorated stink bug (BMSB) is causing frustration for home owners and farmers across America. These shielded, flying, stout, and brown insects are thought to have invaded the US from Asia in the mid-90s. Since the first one was positively identified in 2001 by Penn State they have spread across the country and now pose threats worth $21 billion to specialty food crops annually. They cause damage to many food crops including fruits, vegetables, and grains.
There are many different kinds of less common stink bugs in our region that including beneficial, predatory stink bugs. This past week I identified a type of stink bug I hadn’t seen before that was collected from a Noble County home after the holidays. It was distinctly different from the BMSB and turned out to be the twice-stabbed stink bug. Stink bugs do not create structural damage to homes, nor are they a problem if consumed by pets, and they do not bite. However, they are a severe annoyance and threat to American commodities. Damage from the BMSB sends a significant amount of valuable fresh fruits and vegetables to be processed and canned, instead of marketed whole and fresh each year. It is the BMSB that is most likely causing you distress at home this winter.
They enter your home in search of a place to overwinter until Spring. Their large size and ability to fly long distances makes it difficult to ignore their presence. They persistently enter homes through any crack or crevice they can fit through. Pesticides are unnecessary and generally ineffective tools for home control. The best way to keep stink bugs out, is to eliminate their way in by sealing cracks, door frames, windows, and utility access areas in your home. If you have them in your home, don’t be ashamed. Everyone does. Don’t let them get cozy. Find them. Sweep them up with a vacuum. Catch them in a pheromone trap. Drop them in soapy water. Freeze them. Smash them. Compost them. Whatever you prefer, stop them in their tracks. What serves as your annoyance this winter will become a severe agricultural pest this spring.
For addition information about the impact of the brown marmorated stink bug and efforts to control it visit: www.StopBMSB.org.
Banishing Bed Bugs
This article was originally published in The Journal on December 19, 2016.
Recently I heard through the county grapevine that there have been some local cases of bed bugs (Climex lectularius). I have not identified any infestations myself and I hope that will still be true in 2017. In any case, it is always good to be prepared to address a situation such as this. So, let’s start by debunking a prevalent myth about bed bugs:
“Only dirty people get bed bugs.”- False. This is absolutely false.
The spread of bed bugs is more related to the movement of people than it is to cleanliness. However, it may be more difficult to treat or diagnose a case of bed bugs in cluttered spaces and within displaced groups of people, rather than in a spotless environment. Bed bugs are arachnids that are exclusively mobile by crawling. They are sensitive to light and will hide in dark crevices, such as bed frames, mattress seams, and base boards, which is why people often notice bites before they notice bugs. The most obvious sign of bed bug presence is black speckles of feces on crevice surfaces. Bed bugs often use carpeted areas to approach new hosts and climb into luggage, purses, clothing and more.
After hitching a ride to a new environment, they make a new home in your home. You probably won’t notice the first day, or even the first week. That means that by the time you do notice them, they have multiplied. A female bed bug typically lays about five eggs daily throughout her lifespan, which can range from 6-12 months. Eggs hatch into the first of five nymph stages within 4-12 days. Although bed bugs require a feeding between each nymph stage, they can survive for extended periods of time without a meal.
Biting occurs at night and there is usually no pain to the host during the act of biting. Residual effects of the bite can cause mild to moderate skin irritation for 1-2 weeks. Bed bugs rarely transmit disease. All in all, they are a severe annoyance that is very challenging to eliminate without professional intervention.
If you suspect that you have bed bugs in your home or business get a positive ID. Sticky traps near hiding areas are effective for collecting specimens. Another method that works well is to use clear tape to capture a specimen and secure it to a white or clear surface. Then examine the specimen to confirm if it is or is not a bed bug. Professionally assisted eradication is the most effective method for ridding your environment of these pests. It is very difficult to get effective control using only cultural methods or only with pesticides. It will require a combination of both and may take multiple attempts. Always check furniture for signs of bed bugs when you spend the night away from home and also check before bringing new furniture into your home.
If you fear that you have encountered bed bugs while traveling, there are steps to take to reduce the risk of spreading them to your home. Upon your return, bag and seal clothing and other belongings before you enter and immediately heat treat whatever you can in the dryer. Proceed to washing items in hot water and drying them again. Exposure to high heat will kill bed bugs. Vacuum any upholstery or carpet that you may have contacted on the way in.
Getting bed bugs is not the end of the world, but it can be embarrassing and difficult to treat. I hope that you do not encounter bed bugs, but if it happens hopefully you will know what to do after reading this article.