CARE AND FEEDING OF YOUR STINK BUG
Inserting tongue firmly in cheek.
I'm assuming that if you're reading this, you really want to take on the incredibly rewarding task of having a stinkbug for a pet. Last year alone over 5 people in the United States made that same decision, and the number of stinkbug afficiandos is growing all the time. For the time being, however, our numbers aren't large enough to cause pet shop owners to carry stinkbugs among their wares, so in order to acquire our odiferous objects of joy, we have to capture them. First lets find where they live. The brown and green stinkbugs are found throughout most of the United States, and have been found as far north as Quebec and south into northern Mexico. They live and feed on over 52 plants, including native and ornamental trees, shrubs, vines, weeds, and many cultivated crops. The preferred hosts are nearly all wild plants.
To capture your very own stinkbug, simply place a cafeteria tray under a sickly looking tomato or soybean or corn plant and shake the plant. Hopefully you'll jostle several of the critters loose. The best time to find stinkbugs is in late September or early October. That's the highest population level, as that's the time when the young buggies have reached maturity and before the stinkbugs have gone into hiding as they do each winter. The eggs are laid in early summer and the nymphs that hatch from these eggs go through five distinct stages before becoming adults. This entire process takes about two or three months.
Feeding your stinkbug pet is pretty simple. Their preferred food is honeydew nectar. Stinkbugs eat by poking their long beak like mouthparts into a plant (developing buds and fruits are popular), injecting digestive fluids into the plant and then sucking up the liquified food. This method of feeding, while quite efficient for the bug, wreaks havoc (god I love saying that) on the plant, which explains why stinkbugs aren't very popular with farmers and fruit growers.
Now let's talk about what makes stinkbugs so unique. That would of course be THE STINK!! This insect has stink glands, located on the underside of the thorax, which secrete an offensive smelling substance to repel its enemies. If you actually want to watch this stuff come out (and who wouldn't?) you just turn the bug over and stroke the underside of the thorax. The smell is somewhere between the formic acid smell released by ants and sugar water. I haven't been able to find out exactly what chemical compound is responsible for this odor, but I'm still looking. The smell is another reason that some misguided people don't like stink bugs. When the bug lands on something it leaves a smelly residue on that item. People don't like their fruit to smell like stink bugs for some strange reason. Keeping stink bugs as pets will help reduce sibling intrusion into your bedroom however, so there's always a bright side to everything.
Stink bugs are attracted to light and warmth..who isn't? Because of this, they tend to want to move into warm, dry lighted houses in the winter. If there's a loose board on the side of a house, or a crack under a door to a shed, hordes of chilly stink bugs may colonize your building. Some people object to this, maybe because of the odor that the little darlings leave behind, which can last for several years after the original owner has moved on. They can be kind of hard to get rid of, as they go into a sort of hibernation during their time inside, and pesticides are pretty useless against them at that time.
Ok..one last fact then I'll shut up about stink bugs. Did you know that stink bug sex can last up to several days? I thought not.
Removing tongue from cheek.