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Consperse stink bug

by Christian Ryan
| June 30, 2020 1:00 AM

“I think I stink. I turn the green grass pink. Wherever I go that smell follows. That cloud I make no one can take[1].” That was the first line of a song from a cartoon I used to watch as a kid. The singer was, appropriately enough, a stink bug character named Stanley, who often lamented about his species’ most characteristic trait. But is the lowly stink bug all smell, or is there more to this critter than what meets the eye … or nose, in this case?

The stink bug is the common name we give to insects from the pentatomidae family. There are more than 200 species throughout the continent of North America. They are roughly the size of your thumbnail, measuring little more than three-quarters of an inch long. Their little bodies are triangular in shape and vary in color, appearing anywhere between dark green, brown and gray. One of Idaho’s resident stink bug species is the consperse stink bug, Eustichistus conspersus.

Stink bugs are true bugs. Interestingly enough, most insects are not! Despite the fact that virtually everyone uses the words “bug” and “insect” as synonyms, please don’t do so in front of someone who studies insects at the risk of bugging them. To an entomologist (a scientist who studies insects), a “true bug” is most easily identified by its rigid proboscis, which is a straw-like structure designed to suck up liquids from either plants or other animals. Other insects, like butterflies, bees and mosquitoes also have a proboscis, but are not considered bugs because theirs are not rigid, but can be retracted. So it turns out that most of the creepy-crawlies in A Bug’s Life aren’t even real bugs, including the main character, Flik the ant!

Stink bugs are omnivorous, meaning they eat both plant and animal matter (the exact percentage of either one varies depending on the species). Unlike their cousin, the bed bug, which sucks the blood of humans and sleeping animals, they are harmless to humans.

Farmers consider stink bugs to be both a blessing and a curse. On one hand, hungry stink bugs will decimate flowers, fruit, leaves, soybeans and other crops; while on the other hand, they eat insects that also destroy farmers’ crops, like caterpillars and beetle larvae.

As mentioned before, stink bugs feed with their proboscis. They stick it into their meal in order to inject digestive enzymes that turn in the insides of what they’re eating into mush. Then they drink it back up through their straw-like proboscis. Doesn’t that sound yummy?

Speaking of eating, stink bugs desire to consume rather than being consumed. Hence their obnoxious stench that is reminiscent of rotten eggs. It’s little wonder these true bugs have little trouble keeping predators, and nature-loving humans, at bay!

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Ryan