Stink bug enters political fray

  • Brown, marmorated and stinky, the invasive Asian brown marmorated stink bug (shown here eating an apple) may be just the ticket to get our minds off the stench of political ads. The bug turned up this week in Indiana and appears to be headed our way. (Purdue Agricultural Communication photo by John Obermeyer)

    Brown, marmorated and stinky, the invasive Asian brown marmorated stink bug (shown here eating an apple) may be just the ticket to get our minds off the stench of political ads. The bug turned up this week in Indiana and appears to be headed our way. (Purdue Agricultural Communication photo by John Obermeyer) Purdue Agricultural Communication photo

 
 
Updated 10/22/2010 4:21 PM

You smell that? Do you smell that? Political ads, son. Nothing else in the world smells like that. I hate the smell of political ads in an election.

We can't turn on the TV or radio without being bombarded by nasty ads telling us how badly our candidates stink. In-boxes are flooded with alerts demanding we "rally the troops" to stop the evil ones from "stealing this election" in their blackhearted quest to ruin America. One side calls the other side a bunch of haters, and the other side fires backs because the one thing they really hate is being called a bunch of haters.

 

I'm so fed up with our candidates' ads that whenever I see the names Brady and Quinn, I prefer to think of the benign Brady Quinn, the former Notre Dame quarterback who currently is the third-stringer to Kyle Orton on the Denver Broncos. I'm looking for something equally harmless on which to focus whenever I hear the names Giannoulias and Kirk.

This might be the dreamy, idealistic liberal in me, but one way to end the name-calling and stench-filled attacks might be if our politicians found a common enemy. Something villainous and foreign that entered our country illegally, is not attractive, has a name that stimulates fear and is easy to hate because we don't know anything about it.

Scumbags and scumbagettes of politics, I give you the brown marmorated stink bug.

A half-inch-long invasive pest from Asia, the brown marmorated stink bug sneaked into our great nation from Japan, Korea and China and was first reported in Pennsylvania in 1998. Largely confined to other eastern states such as Virginia, Maryland and New Jersey, the stink bug later showed up in Ohio (I'm guessing in time for the 2004 presidential election) and Kentucky.

Now comes news that entomologists from Purdue University's Plant & Pest Diagnostic Laboratory confirmed that a bug found this week in Elkhart County (just 133 miles from Naperville!) is indeed a brown marmorated stink bug. As a Hoosier export myself, I can assure you this means the brown marmorated stink bug no doubt will wander into our state, possibly as soon as Sunday by stowing away in an Elkhart-made RV headed to the Bears game.

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"I'm sure it's coming," says Donna Danielson, plant clinic assistant at the Morton Arboretum in Lisle, although she suspects we might have a year or two until the stink bugs start showing up in suburban homes. She says the bug, which essentially has "a soda straw for a mouth," uses its beak to break through the surface of an apple, pear, tomato, bean or ear of corn to slurp up the juices.

"The entomologists (in Eastern states) are shocked about how many insects there are," Danielson says. The stink bug, so named because of the noxious odor it produces when attacked or squished, is a major concern to people who grow corn, soybeans and fruit trees.

"As a homeowner, you'll be more annoyed by them because they try to come into your house in the winter," Danielson says, comparing them to the swarms of Asian ladybugs that pile up on our window sills. While that can be bothersome, those ladybugs are beneficial insects actually imported to this country to eat pesky aphids. Stink bugs have no redeeming qualities.

"These guys are just bad news," Danielson says.

While Illinois seems awash in Asian pests _ from the Emerald Ash Borer to those Godzilla-like Asian carp _ "it's not a one-way street at all," Danielson notes. "We have pretty much destroyed the Japanese paper industry by sending a disease called pine wilt to Japan."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Illinois also is prone to homeland attacks. The alarmingly named "thousand cankers disease" that has killed black walnut trees out West was discovered this summer in Tennessee and no doubt will show up in our suburbs one day, Danielson predicts.

No sooner do we survive one scary attack, we must gear up for another relentless onslaught.

"That's the way it is in nature," Danielson says.

Same with politics. It can't be long until we see ads suggesting Quinn has done nothing to stop stink bugs, Brady has no plan to combat them, Giannoulias' bank funded the import of stink bugs and Kirk claimed to have been awarded a medal for wiping out the pest years ago.

It smells like politics.