Meet Mr. Halyo
He's Likely In Your House Too!

Stephen Berberich

© Copyright 2023 by
Stephen Berberich

Image by Ian Lindsay from Pixabay
Image by Ian Lindsay from Pixabay

        This story is from the perspective of the animal. The story is true.   
        Now I am convinced. They all left. I am alone.

I just flew through every room in the house. They are gone, except me, their captain. In November, I guided 30 of us into this house. Iím a smart and skilled squadron captain of our particular horde.

When winter arrived early, I targeted this house as a possible shelter. I flew reconnaissance over and around it to identify potential entry points. I then directed my fliers in.

We entered through spaces in the clapboards, windows and doors, chimney brick holes, and even up through the damp and rotten crawl space under the house. We all got into this house unharmed. We then dispersed over ceiling lights, in fire alarms, behind bookshelves, on the tops of kitchen cabinets (my favorite), and in other warm and dry hiding places. The choices were entirely up to each flier. My only order was to please remember your entry point come spring.

My instincts were spot on in choosing this haven. Only two people live in the house, Mr. Old Man and Mrs. Old Woman. They are slow, set in their habits, and squint through thick bifocal eyeglasses. I was pleased. The house was a perfect cover during the cold months.

You might ask if I am so heroic, so smart, why am I trapped by myself with Mr. Old Man and Mrs. Old Woman in March? The short answer is that dealing with human trouble is another matter entirely out of our hordeís control.

One day this monthóI cannot remember which dayóthe metal ladders first began clanging against the house. A few of us buzzed to the upstairs bedroom window for a look. There was Mr. Old Man on the front lawn with several men in white caps and overalls looking up. They waved their arms and pointed at every part of the house.

It was still winter! So, to my great surprise, the house painters on that warm day began brushing and rolling white paint all over the house. For several days, they caulked, sealed, and painted over cracks and crevices, including our holes, where we had so cleverly entered in November.

ďWe must abandon our mission,Ē I shouted in every room where I found my fliers. ďWake up, wake up!!! Do you remember your holes? Your holes, your holes! Wake up and get moving. We must get out.Ē

I got them all out, but it took too long for me. As humans say, ĎThe captain should be the last to abandon a sinking ship.í The painters plugged every single one of our entry holes. I cannot escape from the very house I had so smartly selected for my squadron in November.

Well, what am I to do? First, let me introduce myself. No, I am not Mr. Stinkbug. I hate that nickname. Besides we do not stink. I am Mr. Halyo. My pleasure, Iím sure. Halyo is short for our hordeís scientific name Halyomorpha halys. Again, stink we do not. We offer a lovely perfume when threatened by predators, okay? Some smart people call our scent pungently similar to coriander.

If I may further introduce myself, my horde is the harmless brown species, unlike the obnoxious green horde, which humans call the green stink bugs. Browns and greens are each protected by a long-tapered shell resembling a combat tank in the human world of war. Indeed, our movements and flights are highly calculated and angular, much like combat tanks or fighter jets in battle modes. We sound like miniature airplanes when we take flight quickly. I always hear such comparisons said by Mr. Old Man.

Greens and browns each have those spindly six legs that motor us along floors, walls, and ceilings. And we browns can shift into high-speed gear whenever Mr. Old Man or Mrs. Old Woman reaches out to grab one of us. And browns and greens both feel and smell with super-sensitive, alternating black and white colored antennae.

We browns, Halyomorpha halys, hide in houses when itís cold, as Iíve indicated. Heaven only knows where those disgusting greens hide in the winter; certainly not with us in cozy houses with humans who should be grateful for that. The greens stink to high bug heaven. They discharge huge loads of foul-smelling stuff. 

And, the green adults can become major crop pests. They ravage tomatoes, beans, peas, cotton, soybean, and eggplants in gardens and farmersí fields. They also feed on stems and foliage, thus damaging fruit trees. They are not good bugs. We even observe greens eating human garbage. Yuk!

Okay, okay, browns eat a little of that stuff too but with better table manners. We are the good guys, see?

We are no harm to people in their houses. Back to my dilemma, soon it will be summer and I am stuck here with two old humans, while my squadron of brown fliers got out, except a few that Mr. Old Man stepped on and killed. It is his house, but he had no right.

Meanwhile, Mrs. Old Woman has been kind to us. When she caught one of my fliers buzzing by or crawling up a wall, she grabbed it in tissue and dropped it to the outside porch on the sunny side of the house. Three times she threw me out. Three times, I got back into the house. Ha!

Trying to get out now in spring, I crawled through the shadows of this house and feared no evil. Clever, yes? Iíve flown solo around their bathrooms to find an open window for my escape to no avail. Iíve even tried squeezing through the fire alarm thingy in the ceilings. No luck. The painters blocked all!

Iíve been hiding out in the house far too long. The last of my squadron to leave was my girlfriend. She said follow me, but I was too blinded by terror to know where she got out.

I canít remember my entry hole. I was so exhausted back in November after getting everyone inside the house, I must have napped and forgotten my crack in a door, space in a ceiling light, or hole in the mortar of their fireplace.

It is late spring, and Iím still trapped here with the two old humans. Talk about smelling bad. Oh, sorry.

Iíll just hang out on the window screen above the kitchen sink, It is a lovely spring afternoon. Trees are budding out. The daffodils and crocuses are blooming. So are the dandelions. The jaybirds and squirrels are fussing over the last of the acorns on the ground. I wish I could be free. Please, God, hear my prayer to Bug Heaven. Iíll die here. My legs are weak. Iím losing a grip on the screen.

Mrs. Old Woman is cleaning dishes just below me. She sees me and picks me off the screen.

ďOh, hello deary. Are you still here?Ē She gently drops me into a tissue and walks out of the kitchen with me. I hear the porch door open. ďHere Mr. Stinkbug. You should be free on this beautiful day. God bless you and your children. Bye-bye.Ē

I fly outdoors and start looking for my girlfriend. Perhaps I will still have some children. I will tell my horde to stay out of your summer gardens. God Bless you too, Mrs. Old Woman.

This story is from the perspective of the animal. The story is true. Last year we got our house painted. Previously, each fall it seemed dozens of stinkbugs invaded. After the house was painted only one stinkbug failed to get out in the spring. My wife kindly released him.

Stephen Michael Berberich is a science and environment journalist and author of fiction. He lives on a small farm in Southern Maryland with his wife Diane and six formerly homeless cats they adopted as kittens. He is a member of the Maryland Writers Association,

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