Win tickets to see the smash hit musical Mamma Mia at the Roanoke Civic Center. Two winners will each receive four tickets!
Associated Press | File 2011
Farmers are dealing with big numbers of brown marmorated stink bugs this year, but some places are seeing a decline.
Monday, August 12, 2013
Q: What happened to all the stinkbugs? Perhaps the locusts who came out after 17 years ate them? I don't miss them but I'm curious where they all went?
Dorothy Henry, Roanoke County
A: Dorothy isn't the only one who called or emailed with this question , and it occurs to me that we haven't seen too many of those creepy critters on our ceilings and curtains this year either.
The locust theory is an interesting one, but I found a cool website called "What Do Animals Eat?" and it seems that we can eliminate locusts as predators. Cicadas (sometimes called locusts) survive on the fluids of a tree by sucking sap from the trunks of the trees where they wait before emerging after a long interval, which can vary depending on the species. The ones we had this year are 17-year cicadas, also referred to as Brood II.
As for stinkbugs, most of them eat plants, and feed in the spring on weeds and grasses. According to the website of the Orkin Corp., as they develop into adults they move on to fields, orchards and residential plants.
Not to get too gross about it, but when they feed on fruit they use their mouths to "bite" into the fruit and leave behind toxic saliva that can cause the fruit to form scar tissue that apparently resembles the face of a cat, causing some people to refer to them as "cat-facing insects." I swear I did not make that last sentence up.
So why do there seem to be fewer of them this year? I checked with Eric Day from the Department of Entomology at Virginia Tech. He said that while some farmers are dealing with big numbers of brown marmorated stink bugs this year (that's the kind that blew up between 2009-11), other spots are seeing a decline. For you Scrabble players out there, marmorated means "veined or streaked like marble," according to Merriam-Webster.
It's just something that happens in nature. Populations of all species go up and down for a variety of reasons that can include available food, an increase in predators, or a change in climate or habitat.
One cool reason for the decline in stinkbugs, according to Day, is that "Some parasitic wasps and birds are starting to look at them as food and are killing and eating them." Don't you love nature? A bunch of hungry wasps are sitting around, and eventually they start noticing that all of these invasive bugs from Asia are everywhere.
"Dude, I dare you to eat one of those things," says one wasp, and before you know it they're all chowing down at the stink bug buffet, leaving us to ponder whether we'd rather deal with stinky but relatively harmless stink bugs or wasps who are starting to expand their diets beyond where evolution had taken them to date.
Now if we could get the stinkbugs to stop eating peaches and start eating kudzu, we might really be on to something.
Can you tell that the old mailbag is getting a little light? If you've been wondering about something, call "What's on Your Mind?" at 777-6476 or send an email to email@example.com. Don't forget to provide your full name, its proper spelling and your hometown.
Look for Tom Landon's column on Mondays. Visit the blog at http://blogs.roanoke.com/whatsonyourmind/.
Weather JournalRain is here; no snow