October 7, 2012

Stink Bug and Blister Bug Plagues

Filed under: Insects and Bugs — carolyncholland @ 3:00 am



“I don’t know why o one likes stink bugs,” Fran’s grandson told her. “They’re my buddies.”

“Then get different buddies,” Fran retorted.

Fran had just told me that stink bugs are plaguing her community, thirty miles west of where I live. They made their way into her house regardless of the fact that she sealed her windows and air conditioners in every imaginable fashion.

“As soon as the temperature hits seventy degrees they’re all over,” she said. “They’re magical bugs. Maybe they transform themselves to get in. They just invade, there’s nothing sacred.

“They get into everything—sheets, clothing drawers, in the pleats of the drapes…my husband watches them crawl across the ceiling as I try to eliminate them.”

She found thirty stink bugs in the folds of her heavy drapes when she removed her air conditioner.

This week she went to her post office four miles away.

“I saw a lady swinging her arms like helicopters.” The woman was trying to scare away stink bugs.


The image created in my mind almost made me laugh. It also drew my thoughts to the novel chapter I worked on three days ago. Yes, stinkbugs are plaguing areas in Southwestern Pennsylvania. However, bugs of some sort or another have plagued civilized people since…well, since they became civilized.

Here is the excerpt from my novel that my thoughts moved to—on an unusually hot spring morning in 1791 and Madame Rosalie de Leval, her daughter, and Louis de Isles are meeting for breakfast at a Philadelphia inn the first morning after Madame and her daughter arrive in the United States (they are escaping the French Revolution):

     While savoring their morning meal their hands continually danced in the air in a futile attempt to protect their bodies and their food and from a multitude of small flying insects.

     “Saraphine is enjoying herself,” Madame commented as she watched the smiling child bat away the bugs in a game she herself invented.

     “These blisterflies are a devil of an insect. They light upon the food, befouling it to a degree that destroys a person’s appetite. They aren’t too plentiful now—their season is just beginning.  At the season’s peak innkeepers sweep up bushel loads of them four times a day. Their only redeeming quality is that poultry likes to eat them.”

     “Oooh,” commented Saraphine. “I don’t think I’d like to eat them.”

     Madame and Louis laughed.

     “I wouldn’t either,” Louis commented. “Since the flies are attracted to white, homes and businesses hang white paper garlands throughout their rooms. They accumulate on the paper, even at this early hour, and leave disgusting black specks. The papers must be changed constantly because they become so black.”

      Madame studied the garlands hung around the dining room. “I thought the garlands were just an unusual American decoration.”

     “Residents repaint their apartments each autumn to cover the flyspecks deposited on their walls during the summer. Most city homes remove their drapes and wall hangings during the summer to prevent the blisterflies from finding refuge in fabric folds. Even women’s white dresses become covered with flyspecks.”

     Saraphine glanced at her white dress, confused whether to be pleased or disgusted to see several black specks on it.

    “Can’t they get rid of them?” Saraphine asked, so busy entertaining herself with the bugs that she barely touched her meal.

     “See the saucers placed around the room?” Louis said. “The vitriol they contain creates a poisoned atmosphere that kills the pesky insects. You mustn’t touch them.”

     The blisterflies were not the only disgusting pests flying about. “The fleas and mosquitoes here are enormous,” Madame said.

     “Yes. They torment the entire city. But the people are friendly,” he said, trying to change the subject. “The Americans have welcomed us with open hearts and arms.”

Back to stink bugs: information from a 2010 report:

The ubiquitous brown bugs with a citrusy or piney scent are making their way into midstate (PA) homes, previewing the hordes likely to appear in late September and October as the weather cools.

Bloggers share ideas about getting rid of them: Flush them down the toilet, vacuum them up, drop them in a bucket of soapy water, squash them, stick them to duct tape.

They are annoying in homes but don’t do much damage. They don’t bite or destroy wood…Stink bugs can eat almost anything and so far have no natural predators in the United States. No one knows if their damage is going to spread to other crop… The bugs, originally from Asia, appeared in this country about a decade ago and have spread rapidly.1


Stink bugs, blister bugs, black flies in Maine each spring, Mayflies in Lakeside (Ohio) each spring…part of man’s existence must be shared with other of nature’s creatures, no matter how unpleasant the situation. I can say this because the stinkbugs haven’t discovered my neck of the woods yet.


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  1. They’ve also invaded Charlotte. I’ve vacuumed more than a few in the past week. I’ll be happy to send you some if you’re feeling left out. Pam

    Comment by Pam — October 7, 2012 @ 4:29 pm | Reply

    • I’m definitely NOT feeling left out Pam…you and Fran can keep you stinkbugs to yourself. I won’t consider either of you selfish if you don’t share.

      Comment by carolyncholland — October 8, 2012 @ 11:31 am | Reply

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