Friday, Nov. 16, 2001
* Japanese name: Kusagikamemushi
* Scientific name: Halyomorpha halys
* Description: Most people call all insects "bugs," but strictly speaking, only one order of insect, those with piercing mouthparts, are true bugs -- the stink bug is one of them. It belongs to a family called shieldbugs, because the body is triangular and shield-shaped. It has two pairs of wings, the forewings being slightly hardened for protection, like a beetle's, and the hindwings being used for flight. The wings are folded flat over the body, which is a brown-black color with speckles of red and gold.
* Where to find them: On plains and in lower mountain areas, and in parks and gardens, from Honshu to Kyushu. They emerge in spring, mate and lay eggs on the leaves of fruit trees. (In Japanese, the name means "stinky tree bug.") By May the larvae are feeding, and in midsummer they molt into the adult stage. November is the peak season for flying -- the bugs fly to look for overwintering sites and can be found in large numbers on buildings and temples.
* Food: Fruits and vegetables. Stink bugs are major pests of soybeans, pears and apples. They insert their needlelike mouths into the fruit and suck juices from it. This leaves marks on the fruit that make it unfit for sale.
* Special features: If you disturb a stink bug, you will soon regret it. Many bugs have "stink glands," and the stink bug's are well-developed. When disturbed, the glands release a pungent, foul-smelling chemical, which is spread when the bug flaps its wings. In winter, they go into a state called diapause, which is like hibernation for insects. Stink-bug blood contains glycerol, which works like natural antifreeze to stop the bug from freezing solid. The sperm of male bugs comes in different lengths, some with very long tails, some very short. It's not known why their sperm is like this, but it might be that short sperm swim off to fertilize the female's eggs and the long sperm block the reproductive tract to prevent the sperm of other males from getting in.