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Jewish World Review
Jan 13, 2012/ 18 Teves, 5772
Not exactly a biblical plague, but certainly an annoyance
G0d expressed his displeasure through the 10 plagues of Egypt, and it always pays to be alert to signs of G0d's wrath.
In my neighborhood, there is much to arouse suspicion. There are gnats, mosquitoes and flies, but then we live next to two streams, near the stagnant waters of the C&O Canal and not far from the Potomac River. Frogs, not so much anymore.
Washington seems to be visited by seven-year locusts annually, and they are deafening, but you get used to them. And in any case, the deer are more of a threat to the capital shrubbery than the locusts. (I know. Technically, cicadas are not locusts, but when it's your story you can tell it your way.)
There's thunder and occasional hail, but our weather's been increasingly quirky the last couple of years whether because of G0d, global warming or sunspots, who knows. There's darkness, but then it is the dead of winter. And our first-born is remarkably robust thanks to the U.S. military.
But I still think G0d is messing with us, whether out of mild pique or maybe just a sense of humor that passeth human understanding. We, and 36 other states, have been visited by a plague of stinkbugs.
When they are crushed they emit an odor described by one observer as "cilantro mixed with burned rubber and dirty socks." (Actually, that kind of resembles a wine writer's description of a particularly exceptional vintage, although with strong tannins thrown in.)
They are real pests, accounting for $37 million in damage to the 2010 apple crop, according to one trade group. They are also a real nuisance, especially if they migrate into your house by the thousands to spend the winter.
Like so many unpleasant additions to our wildlife and plant life -- snakeheads, zebra mussels, kudzu, Asian carp, Burmese pythons -- they arrived here from the Far East and found the New World very much to their liking.
In my own neighborhood, we have Asian tiger mosquitoes, small, fast and very light on their little legs, not at all like the old-fashioned slow and heavy American mosquitoes that were so satisfying to smash on your forearm or leg.
The stinkbug is believed to have arrived by freighter about 15 years ago, and only lately really started to proliferate.
Stinkbugs are described as speckled brown and 1/2 to 1 inch long with no natural predators. Ours don't seem quite that big and are more of a mottled battleship gray and they have one implacable enemy in Mrs. McFeatters, who is relentless in tracking them down and crushing them with a paper towel. Perhaps because of that or perhaps because of the cold weather, they seem to have become infrequent visitors.
The USDA is said to be spending $5.7 million to find a natural predator for the stinkbug and is re-creating its mating scent to lure the amorous bugs to their death.
One hopeful predator is described as a tiny parasitic wasp from Asia that eats stinkbug eggs. But you have to ask where, after eating all the stinkbugs, the parasitic wasps will turn next?
Maybe the little wasps will become a plague of their own and we'll have to import an equally nasty predator to control them. If we listen carefully, we may hear somewhere deep in the heavens someone trying to stifle a divine laugh.
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