I grew up in the heart of the city, in a row house that shared walls with the neighbors to either side. Trees were few and far between, growing up through iron grates that replaced the cement sidewalks beside the stone curbs. Grass simply did not exist anywhere that I can recall, and perhaps this is why I do not remember encountering any outside bugs in my childhood world.

I do remember, however, that cockroaches roamed wild in our basement. We would switch on the light and they would scurry across the flagstone floor, seeking refuge in the dark crevices. Whenever one happened to venture upstairs into our living spaces, my mother would chase it across the floor, stomping like a wild woman. I, however, felt sorry for my mother’s victims, and when I found one scurrying about upstairs, I would quietly rescue it. I built a roach house out of a shoebox, that I hid under my bed, and made miniature furniture for them out of toothpicks and cardboard, small beds, tables and chairs.

As I should have expected, though, the roaches did not seem to like my attention and usually ate their way out of their houses to be greeted by my mother. None of our urban windows had screens, yet I can’t recall any flying insects ever entering our home, and we always had open windows, even in the dead of winter.

My mother insisted that fresh air – even city air – was good for a growing child, and so she always left my bedroom window open, though only slightly cracked in the coldest weather. I remember that the glass of water I always kept by the side of my bed, would often freeze solid in the dead of winter. Imagine reaching for a refreshing sip and finding your lips greeted by smooth ice. It is this memory of bedside water, and household bugs, that brings me to the creek valley where Greg and I have made our home.

I still fall asleep every night with a glass of water on my bedside table. Thankfully, the fire in our woodstove keeps out house toasty warm, yet I still crack open a loft window to let in the fresh valley air. During this early fall time of year, before we have lit our first fire, I usually keep many of our windows open. Perhaps this is why I see so many stinkbugs walking across the screens, looking for a way into our inside world.



Ahh, the stink bug. I have learned that these creatures have only been in our neck of the woods since 1998, and that they originally hailed from the Orient. The very first stateside stinkbug was found in Allentown, Pa., where it is believed to have been somehow accidentally introduced. They have since spread far and wide. I learned that these bugs have some good characteristics and are known to eat caterpillars, beetles and other crop-eating insects, but come fall they look to overwinter in warm places, such as our creek valley home, and can become rather a nuisance.

I am now noticing more and more of them every day, gathering on our window screens, crossing from one side to the other, looking for a way to get inside. Greg and I do share the creek valley with many rural bugs, and so we have screened windows, but still, I know, that at least a few of these large, brittle, flying bugs will find their way inside.

I learned how stink bugs acquired their name. When they are threatened, or crushed, they are said to release a noxious odor, that some say smells like cilantro. The odor actually shares some biological properties with the culinary herb, but I’ve never actually noticed a stink bug scent. One night a few years ago, I reached across my bedside table for a sip of refreshing water, but as I touched the glass to my lips, I realized that I was really quite thirsty, and I took a healthy swig.

The water passed across my lips and was heading down my throat, when I felt a spiky catch. I instantly knew that I was swallowing a stink bug. I gagged and coughed to no avail. The bug was quite stuck half way down my gullet. I had no recourse but to swallow more water and wash it all the way down. I immediately googled whether stink bugs were poisonous, and to my relief, I learned that they are not, but as I read further, I learned that if I had chewed the bug, the noxious taste could have upset my stomach.

It appears that I have a strong constitution, for I not only ingested, but digested the bug without any complication whatsoever. My psyche, however, was rather wounded.

Just the sight of the bugs now causes me to feel an unpleasant catch at the back of my throat, and I now know not to rely on our rural window screens. I still have a glass water on the nightstand by my side of the bed, but I always make certain to covered it with a protective lid. I carefully remove the lid before taking that refreshing midnight sip of water.

Without a doubt, I will not be building any shoebox houses for our creek valley stink bugs.

Christine Tailer is an attorney and former city dweller who moved several years ago, with her husband, Greg, to an off-grid farm in south-central Ohio.