When I was little, I remember coming across stink bugs sometimes while out playing. I grew up in the 60s and 70s and back in those days, kids played outside. Our parents literally had to call us in at night. We would take a break from playing to go inside and eat dinner, and then we’d be right back outside until after dark, catching lightning bugs or playing flashlight tag.
We played in different neighborhood yards, we climbed trees, rode bikes, and we played in some nearby woods. As kids, bugs were a part of our lives.
I remember one day while out playing with a friend on the patio, we came across a bug, one that we knew to be called a “stink bug.” They were usually gray or brownish in color but I also remember seeing green stink bugs. We saw them from time to time and they looked like this.
Our curiosity got the best of us and my friend and I began wondering what exactly a stink bug smelled like. How exactly did this creature get its name? I don’t remember which one of us performed the dirty duty of stepping on the poor bug, but suffice it to say, one of us did, with great trepidation. What emanated from that squashed bug was the strong smell of bananas. YES, BANANAS. I remember that smell very vividly like it was yesterday. That was the one and only time I can ever remember smelling a stink bug.
Our experience could only be described as anticlimactic. We were expecting some horrible putrid smell and were met by the quite pleasant aroma of bananas. My conclusion? These bugs had been named improperly and were getting a bad rap. My curiosity about stink bugs was over though, and I never gave them a second thought.
Fast forward forty something years later to this past Halloween night, October 31, 2013. I was sitting at the computer desk catching up on some blog reading when I felt something down my shirt atop my cleavage. Only moments earlier, I had eaten some delicious Planters Cocktail Peanuts right out of the can.
Thinking I must have dropped a peanut down my shirt, I reached down and grabbed said peanut, as I got up to walk into the bathroom to dispose of this peanut in the trashcan. I was halfway to the bathroom, and in the hallway, when I felt this “peanut” move and when I looked down, to my great surprise, I saw that it was NOT a peanut I had clutched in my fingers, but a big black and orange stink bug– a stink bug who was NOT happy about being held captive and who was wildly thrashing its legs. I screamed (yes, like a girl) and slung the stink bug down onto our hardwood floors in the hallway. The bug landed on its back. I remember thinking how appropriate that this stink bug would be black and orange in color since it was Halloween. I had never seen a black and orange stink bug. About that time, the stench hit me. And it wasn’t the pleasant aroma of bananas this time. This malodorous smell was a combination of something very musky with a hint of cinnamon spice. I pulled the collar of my shirt out and the stench hit me right in the face. I smelled my fingers where only seconds before I had held the stink bug, and the smell gagged me. I heaved. I got a tissue and picked up the poor smelly stink bug who was still lying traumatized on its back, flailing its legs and trying to right itself. I ran out the front door and hurled it into the yard. I don’t know who was more distressed, me or the stink bug. Let me tell you, that little bug put out one heck of a putrid odor. How I got a stink bug down my shirt in the first place is beyond me. I had walked around the yard that afternoon and I guess he/she must have hitched a ride on me into the house. Ewww.
After showering (yes, the odor was just that unpleasant), I googled stink bugs as I was curious as to why the gray stink bug of my childhood memories smelled like bananas and this black and orange Halloween stink bug smelled musky with a hint of cinnamon. In my reading I learned that there are 221 species of stink bugs in North America alone and that they come in a variety of colors and sizes. Apparently, different stink bugs emit different odors. Some describe the odor as skunk-like, some like cabbage, some describe it as a spicy smell, and others describe it as a decaying or rotten odor. All agree it is unpleasant. I also read not to ever crush one or “upset” one in your house as the odor a stink bug emits as its defense mechanism can attract other stink bugs into your house. Ugh. That’s all I need. But so far, so good. Two weeks have passed and not a stink bug in sight.
I also read that stink bugs taste bad so birds and other predators tend to leave them alone. So I was pretty surprised when I then went on to read that stink bugs are considered a cultural delicacy in South Africa and are valued for their protein content and are used to flavor stews, etc. I sure didn’t know that. In Europe and North America they are considered pests to our crops and are viewed unfavorably.
Have you ever had an encounter with a stink bug? I’d love to hear your story!