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You’re about to get the stink bugs, America. But no, they won’t be man-faced.

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Man-Faced Stink Bug (Catacanthus incarnatus). Credit: Shutterstock

This is Catacanthus incarnatus, otherwise known as the Man-Faced Stink Bug. Discovered in 1778 by British entomologist, Dru Drury, the species hails from Southeast Asia and India, where it congregates in dense groups of several hundred on fruit trees and flowering flame trees. Man-Faced Stink Bugs can come in several colours, such as red, yellow, orange and cream, and it's thought that these mostly bold colours exist to warn predators that the bug is either poisonous or at least tastes horrible. The bizarre face pattern could also function as a defence mechanism, with the pseudo-eyespots drawing attention away from the vulnerable head area.

Also known as shield bugs, Man-Faced Stink Bugs have a thick, hardened extension of the thorax, called a scutellum, that covers and protects the top of its abdomen. It sometimes has two prominent black dots on its scutellum, but always has a pair of big, black spots on its leathery wings.

Here's two of them mating.

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Colour morphs: (a) Red, (b) Orange, (c) Dark and (d) Creamy yellow. Credit: P. S. Bhat and Srikumar. K. K

Stink bugs are notorious pests because they target a plant's fruit and tender shoots in huge groups, using pheromones to attract scores of other stink bugs to join in. They are considered a threat to cotton, corn, soybean and cashew tree crops, to name a few, and are often resistent to pesticides. And America? They're coming for you.

Millions of brown marmorated stink bugs (Halyomorpha halys) are expected to invade the east coast of the United States in the coming months, seeking refuge in people's homes as the temperature drops. And even better, if they find a suitable house, they'll use those pheromones to attract a whole bunch of other stink bugs to join them. And it's like they planned it, because the scientists who are supposed to be figuring out how to combat them this year aren't allowed to work.

Right now the best advice, according to the University of Maryland's (UMD) College of Agriculture and Natural Sources, is to remove the hoards of stink bugs from your home manually. Because even if a commercial pesticide happens to work on them, their carcasses will attract other insects into your house if not disposed of properly. Brace yourself though, because these manual methods for extraction can get pretty brutal:

  • Suck them up in your vacuum cleaner. But bear in mind that this will make your vacuum cleaner smell like stink bugs
  • Drown them in a gallon jug of soapy water
  • Hang a wet towel outside your house to attract the stink bugs, which you can then knock into soapy water or vacuum them up
  • Take them outside and squash them. The kill odour will ward off any nearby interested parties
  • Stink bugs are slow, so if it's cold enough, you can collect them up and deposit them outside, where they will freeze to death before they can make it back inside
  • Don't have an attic, because this is their favourite point of entry
  • Or finally, as Bayer suggests, FLUSH THEM INTO OBLIVION. I hear there's cheese for everyone.

Here's one Man-Faced Stink Bug chilling on a friend:

 

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The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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