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Valley residents battle incoming waves of stink bugs

| Thursday, Oct. 4, 2012, 2:26 a.m.
Jim Harrison of Carroll Twp. vacuums  stink bugs the side of his house, on October 3,2012.
Jim Ference  |  Valley Indpendent
Jim Harrison of Carroll Twp. vacuums stink bugs the side of his house, on October 3,2012. Jim Ference | Valley Indpendent

The multitude of stink bugs descending on his Carroll Township house reminds Jim Harrison of the movie, “The Swarm.”

“I can sit on my back porch and see them coming off the trees,” Harrison said. “They come in waves.

“This is the worst I've ever seen. We've had them the last two to three years, but this year is the worst by far. So far, we've been able to keep most of them out of the house, but it's a battle.”

Like Harrison, area residents are fighting a seemingly losing battle against stink bugs, which seem to be infiltrating homes in increasingly larger numbers.

Harrison said he thinks the stink bugs are drawn to the white of the aluminum siding on his house.

Harrison uses a Shop-Vac to suck them off his house. After spending hours ridding the exterior of his house of stink bugs, Harrison must undress as soon as he goes inside, because the stink bugs are throughout his clothes.

Valerie Sesler, master gardener coordinator for the Penn State Extension Service office in Fayette County, confirmed the problem is worse this year. State officials said there are several theories for the increased numbers. She said weather is a factor.

“Right now, they're looking for a place to go for over the winter,” Sesler said. “That's the reason people are seeing so many of them in their homes.”

According to a fact sheet distributed by the Penn State Department of Entomology, College of Agricultural Sciences, adult stink bugs emerge sometime in the spring, and mate and deposit eggs from May through August.

Stink bugs were first discovered in Pennsylvania in 1998 in Allentown, but probably arrived in the commonwealth several years earlier. As of September 2010, they had been found in 37 counties, including Allegheny, Washington and Westmoreland.

This species probably has a single generation per year in Pennsylvania, depending on temperature. Warm spring and summer conditions could permit the development of two or three generations, which may be why there are more bugs this year.

Although residents are looking for answers, Sesler sathere is no easy solution for getting rid of stink bugs.

Sesler said pheromone traps are not attracting bugs this time of the year because this is not the breeding season for the insects.

A pheromone is any chemical substance released by an animal that serves to influence the physiology or behavior of other members of the same species.

Harrison created a homemade stink bug catcher made of plastic bottles duct-taped to sticks. The bottles contain diluted Dawn liquid detergent.

“I bought everything on the market and nothing works,” Harrison said. “I even bought something called ‘Stink Bug Killer,' and it didn't work.

“This works better than anything I bought – but trying to keep up with them this way is challenging.”

Chris Buckley is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-684-2642 or cbuckley@tribweb.com.

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