Plagues of Egypt Lane

First the Lone Star ticks, then the turkey vultures . . . what invasive creature is next, you say? Stink bugs?

 

Ever wonder what those little brown crawlers clinging to your window screen are? You know, the flat, shield-shaped ones with the little antennae? Well, try squishing one and you’ll find out more than you ever wanted to know.

The “Halyomorpha halys” or brown marmorated stink bug is an invasive species that has earned particular infamy in recent years. The bug gets its name from the foul odor it emits upon being crushed, a pungent spicy smell that Ashley Federici, a naturalist at the South Fork Natural History Museum, describes as being similar to cilantro or coriander except much, much, worse. 

While some consider stink bugs to be, like ticks and topiary, just another passing annoyance and a fact of life on the East End, others remember a time before the smelly nuisances existed in this area, or even on this continent.

Native to Asia, the species was first introduced to the US in 1998, scientists believe, when the bugs hitched a ride aboard cargo vessels headed from Japan to Pennsylvania. The first recorded sighting of the bug on Long Island was in the early 2000s.

Apparently, New Yorkers aren’t the only ones enticed by the long summers and mild winters of the East End: Over the last decade, the stink bug population has exploded out here. The warm climate is ideal for their reproduction, and they are quickly becoming a strong presence in our ecosystems.

This is bad news, not only for our noses, but for our gardens. While we can be grateful that they don’t bite people, stink bugs are a serious agricultural pest that will chew up almost every kind of crop from apples to peppers to our beloved white corn.

For farmers and gardeners, commercial-grade stink bug traps are available, but Ashley from SoFo has chimed in with some homemade remedies. “If you can tolerate the scent of raw garlic, try crushing a few cloves and leaving it near open windows and doorways; it acts as a natural deterrent.” And, she says, “When planting, consider adding mint to your garden and ripping a few mint leaves and leaving them around the base of other plants that attract stink bugs." • 

Nina Channing

Our associate editor at EAST, Nina has written this year about yoga studios, Grey Gardens, and Trump helicopters. Born and raised in Bridgehampton, she is a high-school dropout, a Wesleyan graduate, and now an MFA candidate at Stony Brook Southampton. When she’s not working, she can almost always be found with a book and a stack of blueberry pancakes in the back booth at Candy Kitchen.