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22,000 stinkbugs, 2 sheets of cardboard. May 31, 2011

Posted by ourfriendben in critters, homesteading, wit and wisdom.
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Silence Dogood here. As longtime readers of Poor Richard’s Almanac know, I hate stinkbugs the way a vegan PETA member hates Sarah Palin. So you can imagine how my skin crawled after our friend Ben spoke with our friend Cole yesterday. They were chatting about two shared passions, marble collecting and plants, when the topic of stinkbugs came up. Cole told OFB that he’d encountered an entomologist in Maryland who’d monitored a house where there were 22,000 stinkbugs. Inside the house.

Cole then noted that the entomologist (that’s a scientist who studies insects) proclaimed that stinkbugs, and their relatives, bedbugs, both smelled like cilantro when they were crushed. I love cilantro. Or, at least, I loved cilantro before I heard this. Now I doubt I’ll ever be able to eat—or even smell—it again. I’m not sure whether to kill the entomologist, Cole, or OFB for passing this information along and ruining one of my favorite treats.

And little did I know that the topic of stinkbugs was just warming up (literally, as we’ll soon see). Our friend Rob dropped in for a few minutes in the afternoon on his way to nearby Bethlehem, PA. As I passed through the kitchen to get a beverage, I saw Rob and OFB bent over Rob’s smartphone.

“Silence! You have to see this!” Hmmm, had Rob taken an adorable photo of our black German shepherd, Shiloh? Wondering how three people could possibly stare at the screen of a smartphone at the same time, I wandered over and realized that they were watching a video.

Turns out, it wasn’t just any video. It was a YouTube video of a guy who’d built a super-ingenious stinkbug trap and was demonstrating how you could build one, too. And the Cro-Magnon-like skills required to build and operate this trap were so simplistic even Luddites like our friend Ben and yours truly could make one. All you need is two pieces of cardboard, about the size of half a standard double-hung window, three furring strips, and a staple gun.

Now, admittedly, the staple gun part is an issue for construction-challenged folks like me and OFB, who are always afraid of stapling our hands to the paper when we use a regular stapler, much less setting off an automated model that fires off staples like a Gatling gun. But I digress.

To make the stinkbug trap, you put down a piece of cardboard and line up three pieces of furring strip cut to fit the cardboard so one is on each outside edge and one is down the middle. Then you put the second piece of cardboard on top and use the staple gun to attach it to the furring strips. Once you’ve attached the strips to the cardboard, you flip the trap over and staple the other piece of cardboard to the furring strips. The end.

Well, maybe not quite the end. The inventor then hung the trap up on the outside wall of his home. Either he didn’t say how he attached it to the wall or I missed that part, but it had to be easy to detach. And please note the critical fact that it is on the outside of the house, so it traps the stinkbugs before they can migrate to the inside. This is an excellent feature, an outstanding improvement over other simple and effective traps like jars of soapy water that will drown stinkbugs inside the house. Eeeewwww. Far better to keep them from ever taking that fateful step indoors.

Okay, so how does the trap work? Simple. The inventor said he was able to trap 70 stinkbugs a day once they started heading indoors in the fall, late September in his area but whenever it starts to cool down where you live. Apparently the stinkbugs, who overwinter inside house walls, emerging into the house in spring after a long winter’s siesta, are tricked into thinking the trap is a really easy-access section of wall and crowd in there.

So, you’re probably thinking, I have 70 stinkbugs in this cardboard trap. Now what? The inventor takes a black plastic garbage bag, holds the trap over it, and shakes. Stinkbugs are genetically programmed to drop down if disturbed before blasting off to safety, so into the bag they go.

And then? The inventor said that yes, you could spray pesticide in the bag to kill the bugs. But his own solution was breathtaking in its simplicity: He seals the bag and dunks it in his hot tub. Safe, organic, and effective. (Though I have to wonder if a pervasive scent of cilantro hovers over his hot tub.) And of course the trap itself is endlessly reusable as long as it doesn’t get wet.

As noted, our friend Ben and I are technophobic Luddites; we don’t access YouTube here for fear it will spread viruses to our laptops, which are (along with our brains) the source of our income as writers and editors. So I’m ashamed to say I can’t even give the inventor of this brilliant stinkbug trap credit, not just for his breakthrough, low-tech solution, but for selflessly sharing it for free on YouTube rather than patenting it, cranking out a commercial version, and stamping it with “As Seen on TV!”

OFB says interested readers can go to YouTube and search for “stinkbug traps” and find the video. I, er, hope he’s right. And Mr. Inventor, whoever you are, you have now joined the pantheon of my Official Heroes. I just wonder if it’s too late to hang one inside the house to catch the bazillion that are buzzing around here?!

           ‘Til next time,