|Brown Marmorated Stink Bug|
For the last few winters, homeowners all over southeastern Pennsylvania have endured "infestations" of Brown Marmorated Stink Bugs (Halyomorpha halys), a non-native species believed to have been introduced into the eastern United States in packing crates from China. They were first collected near Allentown, Pennsylvania in September 1998. (Incidentally, don't you love the name "marmorated," which means "marbled.")
My house has a bumper crop this year, as always. The bugs seek refuge from winter by squeezing into any available crevice in the autumn. Then, in mid-winter for some reason, those that chose to escape the cold in buildings emerge into the interior of the structures, where they can be seen flying and crawling everywhere. Fastidious homemakers freak out, but I have an altogether different reaction.
These bugs, admittedly, are non-native and they are plant pests. When I go to harvest the last few tomatoes in my garden in October and I find that each one has been damaged by the proboscis of a stink bug, I curse the bugs and am inclined to sympathize with those homeowners who won't tolerate the natural world crossing the threshold of their abode.
However, I can't really bring myself to loathe them and, in winter, I actually sympathize with them. Last week, in the midst of an ice storm, I came across one of the bugs clinging to the window pane above my kitchen sink. Surely, in this bug's mind, there was an invisible force field inexplicably preventing it from fulfilling its destiny in the light. Undoubtedly it was starving and it probably felt the mating imperative, but it just couldn't see its way clear or even to simply survive, since the bugs don't last long once they emerge into the warm, dry, foodless house.
Did it know that it only had a few hours left? Did it experience yearning? Was its mesenteron growling for lack of food?
If it had been any season other than winter, I would have captured the bug (as I do all arthropods that show up in the house) and released it outside. But this bug had only two options: starve to death in the house or freeze to death outside. Life's neither pretty nor fair - we all know this - but the complete lack of choice for this doomed insect seemed particularly cruel.