Perihelion Science Fiction

Sam Bellotto Jr.

Eric M. Jones
Contributing Editor


Along the Ashfold Road
by Robert Dawson

Big Boost
by N.E. Chenier

Ceres Beach Resort
by Paul Michael Moreau

by Michael Hodges

Space Squid!
by Myke Edwards

Dahlia and the Ronin
by Milo James Fowler

A Self-Digging Well
by Jay Fuller

World Without Rot
by Erin Lale

Water Finds Its Path
by Robert Lowell Russell

Turning Humans On
by Antha Ann Adkins


Biology of a Hyper-Evolved Theropod
by John McCormick

How Airplanes Fly, Really
by Eric M. Jones

You’ve Got Fantasy in My Science!
by Carol Kean




Shorter Stories

Comic Strips





Invasion of the Stinkbugs

I’VE GOT AN INVASION OF ALIEN creatures going on here. It’s been underway since early last autumn. They really are aliens, too. In the traditional sense. They are from Asia. I’m talking about the Brown Mamaronated Stinkbug (Halyomorpha
), an invasive species of Hemiptera from China, Japan, and Korea, which hit the shores of the U.S. about five years ago and has slowly been spreading from the Northeast all across North America.

According to the Brown Mamaronated Stinkbug Project of Cornell University, the critters were first officially documented in Allentown, PA, in 2001. The species was then documented in New York in the Hudson Valley region in 2008. I began to notice them in October. I smelled them.

The odor of a stinkbug really isn’t that offputting. More of an olfactory annoyance than like the smell of decaying flesh or fecal matter. I’d describe it as a kind of pungent, earthy aroma. Which is how their presence originally came to my attention. You will recall that last summer I wrote about the street improvement project that was being undertaken on my block. That involved digging up the old road and moving huge quantities of dirt. The smell, I figured, was from the dirt. But it came and went, and was often strongest at times when the road wasn’t even being worked on. The culprit wasn’t my dog. She’s been known to roll around in some pretty foul stuff, but I checked her carefully, and even gave her a bath. Then I noticed an unusually frequent occurrence of small, brown, beetle-like insects crawling near the windows, up the walls, and even on the floor. The long, slender nose segment was a dead giveaway—stinkbugs!

Bug experts with the Monroe County Cooperative Extension tell me that the stinkbug population increased dramatically due to our past milder winters. However, the winter just ended was particularly harsh and stinkbug numbers should be down this year. But this lower head count is merely a blip on the radar. The stinkbugs are going to come back.

Here’s an interesting factoid reported in “The Washington Post” by Kevin Ambrose: “Stinkbugs prefer to spend the winter under shingles, in attics, or in the walls of houses and office buildings.  As the temperature falls, the stinkbugs change their physiology by increasing their cryoprotectants (antifreeze proteins) to prevent their body fluids from crystallizing.  This helps the bugs survive the winter’s sub-freezing temperatures.”

Female stinkbugs typically lay twenty or thirty eggs which she secures on the underside of a host plant in the summer. Eggs hatch four to five days later, and the nymphs begin to feed. As the youngsters mature, they undergo a series of molts until they become adults by autumn. Just in time to seek the warmth and comfort of a home for the winter.

Although more of a bothersome pest to humans, stinkbugs can pose a greater threat to agriculture. Their foraging habits scar apples, and can damage softer fruits. Because they are an invasive species, alien to this country, they as yet have no natural enemies to keep their numbers in check. The solution is going tostinkbug be finding another creature that likes to eat stinkbugs. Monroe County Cooperative Extension spokespeople say there is a high probability of this happening, but it will take time. I can remember when the mention of sushi almost always elicited a “what’s that?” Now the food is nearly as prevalent as pizza.

In the meantime, experts recommend sealing any cracks and crevices around your house where the stinkbugs can come in out of the rain and cold. They are opportunistic insects. Once inside a protected environment, they are reluctant to leave.

Did you know that stinkbugs can fly? They aren’t very robust aviators, however, like houseflies. They aren’t very good at taking to the air. This explains why some stinkbugs can be easily picked up and carted to the toilet, or, if you are in a humane frame of mind, escorted out the door. Other stinkbugs will fly away the moment you approach them.

Getting rid of stinkbugs can be tricky because they get pissed off easily and will fire off a shot of their stink in defense. You don’t want to aggravate them; you certainly don’t want to squash them. I like to vacuum them up with my trusty Dirt Devil handheld, a method recommended by Terminix, the bug extermination folks: “Vacuuming stink bugs is an effective method that prevents you from having to touch them. When you vacuum stink bugs, make sure you change the bag right away, as the vacuum will otherwise smell like the bugs. Don’t use a central vacuum that doesn’t require a bag. The smell of the stink bugs will permeate your home. If you’re dealing with a constant stream of stink bugs in your home, consider buying a vacuum specifically for the purpose of cleaning up stink bugs.” Now there’s an opportunity for a young entrepreneur—the Stinkbug Sucker.

Another method recommended to dispatch stinkbugs is to drown them in soapy water. Evidently the soap masks the smell and the stinkbugs quickly expire before they have much of a chance to get their revenge.

I also like the following method, although I cannot say I have ever tried it. But it appeals to my scientific nature. “Use the color yellow to your advantage. Stink bugs are attracted to yellow, a weakness you can use against them by placing yellow sticky traps around your garden. The stink bugs land on the traps and aren’t able to fly away. Yellow can work to your disadvantage, too, if you love yellow daisies or sunflowers. Remove yellow flowers from your yard, or plant them well away from your house, to avoid attracting stink bugs.” I was not aware of that stinkbug proclivity. Good thing I am not a fan of yellow myself. I have no yellow tee-shirts. My kitchen is yellow, though, and I have never encountered a stinkbug in that room. Hmm. Well, I did say these things were aliens.

Sam Bellotto Jr.






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