Concert Bug


stink bug on an interior brick wall

Sunday afternoon I sang a concert of madrigals and other choral music of the last few centuries.

It was in the pleasant modern chapel at a retirement home. Between sets, the music director introduced the next group of songs. A set of Elizabethan madrigals, with plenty of fa-la-las. (They don’t mean anything, but they’re joyful.) Some Irish tunes for St. Patrick’s day. A set of Italian madrigals, including–they work in so many languages–more fa-la-las.

The last month of weather has been so odd here in the Washington, D.C. area. February had warm, sit-outside-for-dinner weather, and the National Park Service said the cherry blossoms could reach peak bloom around March 15. But instead the region got walloped with snow, ice, and days of cold, and we’re still waiting for peak bloom.

As the sun came and went behind clouds, bright colors from the stained glass windows rose and faded on the faces and sweaters of the audience.

As the hour went on, the room got warmer and warmer. When the director stopped to speak, I sneaked drinks of water, turning my back on the audience. (I was on the end. I think it wasn’t that weird.)

One of those times, when I was unscrewing the top of my water bottle, I noticed a brown spot on the chapel wall. I checked again–it was there every time. It looked bug-shaped. True-bug-shaped, I mean, a member of the order Hemiptera, many of which are kind of shaped like a shield, like this one.

If you know your indoor bugs at all, you probably already know that it’s a stink bug. If the internet has not led me astray, it’s a brown marmorated stink bug, Halyomorpha halys, which is native to East Asia.

While we humans, enjoyed music written by other humans like us, both on this side of the ocean and in Europe, a bug whose ancestors came from Asia clung to the wall, soaking up the warmth, never moving a limb. It is a member of a problematic species. Since the first one was collected in Pennsylvania, in 1998, they’ve spread like crazy and now they’ve been detected in most states. They’re bad agricultural pests and they like to come inside when it’s cold.

It didn’t occur to me to kill it, though. For one thing, dealing with a pest that’s spreading this well isn’t really something you deal with one bug at a time. For another, I don’t like killing things. And finally, I hear they smell bad when you mess with them.

Photo: Helen Fields


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6 thoughts on “Concert Bug

  1. They smell weird when you kill them — I kill them a lot, I like killing them. The smell isn’t bad like old fish; it’s more acrid, like camphor only worse.

  2. I actually don’t mind their smell. So many things smell worse. However, I usually just throw them. Which doesn’t really solve the problem long term.

  3. Your reaction to this bug was so much more calm than mine when I saw one in my house. I FREAKED OUT. Lots of internet research about how to get rid of it without the stink.
    One thing I’m curious about: Did you take the photo during the concert?

  4. I’d probably be more alarmed by seeing one in my apartment than I was in this chapel, which is decidedly not my problem. And no, I did not take the photo during the concert! I think the audience might have noticed that.

  5. Give it the back of your hand or your finger. It will delicately test your skin and then step on. Open a door or a window. Blow gently. Let it fly away..

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Categorized in: Animals, Helen