Mike Raupp, also known as Dr. Michael Raupp, entomologist at the University of Maryland, is the bug expert you may have heard on local radio or even on national television shows like 'Good Morning America'. (He's also consultant to the show "Bones".) Lately he's been getting lots of questions about the Brown Marmorated Stink Bug that's become such a menace in our region.
About Stink Bugs
These invasive critters were first spotted in Pennsylvania in the '90s, and are now thriving happily throughout the Mid-Atlantic area, feeding on fruits, vegetables, and many of our ornamental plants. In fact, experts predict that they'll soon become the worst bug infestation ever to affect agriculture - in all of North America.
Mike writes a regular online column called Bug of the Week, rand he devoted the entire month of September to the Stink Bug, especially fascinating, ghoulish videos of them being eaten. The most recent devourer of a Stink Bug you'll see there is a paper wasp, and you can click here to see a praying mantis eating one.
How do you keep them out of your house? Here's what Mike has written for the University of Maryland website:
"These stink bugs have also become a tremendous nuisance in homes and buildings as they seek shelter in the fall. Prevent them from coming in the home by sealing up cracks with caulk, use weather stripping around doors and windows, remove window air conditioners, and close all possible entry points."
Or let Mike show you how in this video:
When speaking recently to a local garden club Mike gave these catch-and-kill tips for Stink Bugs in the home:
- Catch them with traps or by vacuuming them up, then dumping them in soapy water. (No need to use a pesticide!)
- For Stink Bugs caught in traps he recommends putting them in the freezer, then dumping them in your compost bin.
- Mike recommends against flushing stink bugs down the toilet. He says "That's not green" - it just wastes water.
Generally, Mike's not a big fan of killing bugs unless there's a darn good reason to. He notes that fully 80 percent of human genes are shared with insects - so really not that alien to us - and they play an important role in the food chain. And remember, he says, you can't have good bugs without the "bad" ones.
Lyme Ticks and How to Protect Against Them
Of course gardeners are afraid of Lyme Disease, spread by Lyme Ticks, and I was surprised to hear Mike say that rodents are actually the dominant host for the "deer tick" in our area and we should focus on eliminating mice from our gardens. How? By eliminating their habitat - like brush piles. And rather than having lawn come right up to our perennials and groundcovers, he recommends having a zone between them of just mulch, so that mice will be seen scurrying across it by predators like hawks. And when we garden we should tuck our legs into our socks (as uncool-looking as this may be). It's also helpful to spray repellant on shoes and pants.
Photo credits: Stink bug eggs by Mike Raupp; adults by G. Hamilton at Rutgers.