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Don't waste your stink bugs

Culture | The teleology of a dive-bombing ‘devil’ insect

Issue: "Coming to America," April 6, 2013

Hatred served up hot.

Here’s one from among thousands of internet murder tales: I don’t kill him at first. I torture him. I crush his legs one by one. Then I drown him.

The object of such personalized wrath—“him,” not “it”—is the six-legged, triangle-shaped, flying brown/green people-harasser known as The Stink Bug. To be formal, the 3/4-inch tall halyomorpha halys, of the phylum Arthropoda and the class Insecta.

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But few humans are formal concerning these gifts of globalization. (Stink bugs came to Pennsylvania from East Asia during the 1990s and have since then spread over the eastern and southern United States.) Judging from press accounts and numerous “I hate stink bug” pages on Facebook, many people just want them dead:

• They are so ugly. I don’t like using that word “hate,” but there is no other way to describe how I feel.

• I just flicked a stink bug straight in the head as hard as I could and it died :) … now only 8 bazillion left :(

• I’m terrified of them they make me panic when they fly near me.

• In my house we have the STINK BUG CUP OF DEATH. A coffee can filled with ice cubes sprayed with Lysol in the freezer. See one, gingerly pick it up with a napkin, drop it in the cup. Seal and freeze. It’s GREAT!

• I don’t know what I hate more, stink bugs, or my husband when he won’t kill a stink bug for me.

Stink bugs earn their name by having scent glands located on their abdomens and thoraxes: When crushed, they stink. They have no natural predators in the United States except for small wasps that lay eggs inside stink bug eggs and kill them. Stink bugs suck juice from apples and peaches, causing tens of millions of dollars in agricultural losses in the Mid-Atlantic region, according to the U.S. Apple Association.

• Stink bugs ruin my life.

• Whoever brought them to the United States should be sentenced to death.

• I try to sleep, AND THERES A STINK BUG CRAWLING ON MY PILLOW!!!

• This is a plague just waiting to happen. Remember I said this. We need to do something NOW about these!

• At first I didn’t care about the stink bugs. But then one fell in my cup of milk. I now declare war.

Probably as a joke, someone set up a “I love stink bugs” Facebook site. One woman bit, writing that “stink bugs are harmless. They have an interesting look about them. I love ladybugs and lightning bugs … good memories of childhood. Now, I add stink bugs to the list, although, they’re new to me. They are not enemies of ours like the dreaded mosquitoes and ticks.”

That produced a sarcastic response: “Thank goodness for your sweet spirit. Our world needs more wonderful souls just like you! Speaking of more, I have 27 extra-large garbage bags filled with live stink bugs. May I have your address, please?”

Another was angry: “Dear Christians … I have read that ‘God has a reason for everything in creation.’ EXPLAIN [EXPLETIVE] STINK BUGS!!!!!!!!!”

So what is the teleology—the purpose, if we presuppose God’s intelligent design—of stink bugs? One Asheville exterminator told me of his fondness for ladybugs but couldn’t think of any useful purpose for stinkers. (He did say they were evidence of global warming because only recently had they come north of Georgia, but that’s not correct.)

Speaking of Georgia, one mash-up of stink bug hatred with a famous Charlie Daniels song begins, “The devil bug came from Asia, he was looking for a plant to steal.” But while stink bugs are probably one result of the Fall, viewing them as satanic seems like overkill.

I’ve found three reasons to be cheerful. First, it could be much worse: Stink bugs dive bomb for no reason but they don’t bite.

Second, some entrepreneurs have benefited. You can buy “I hate stink bugs” T-shirts, bumper stickers, hats and caps, sweatshirts and hoodies, baby bodysuits, and pet apparel. One previously unemployed Pennsylvanian, Andrew Strube, now works overtime turning out Strube Stink Bug Traps.

The third and most important reason: Life provides training in patience and perseverance. Major in the majors. Don’t let irritations ruin your day. If you want free tuition in the school of self-control, don’t waste your stink bugs.

Marvin Olasky
Marvin Olasky

Marvin is editor in chief of WORLD News Group and the author of more than 20 books, including The Tragedy of American Compassion. Follow Marvin on Twitter @MarvinOlasky.

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