‘Save the Stink Bug’
New documentary details misconceptions about stinky, crunchy insect
When Professor Roger Terwilliger hears the sound of a Hoover, he cringes. Immediately, he imagines its hose sucking up a Halyomorpha halys, more commonly known as the brown marmorated stink bug (BMSB). Vacuuming up the bugs is now common practice in the 37 states in which stink bugs have settled.
But if Professor Terwilliger has his way, Halyomorpha halys will soon be on the endangered species list and our days of using a Dirt Devil to eliminate this winged “problem” will be no more.
A professor of biology at The University of Manamana in Scranton, and amateur filmmaker, Professor Terwilliger is launching a campaign to “Save the Stink Bug.” With a film crew from Tazmania, he’s creating a documentary detailing the life cycle and positive attributes of the bug he believes is simply misunderstood by the American people.
We recently caught up with the professor and his film crew at the North Scranton Mini Park on Wayne Avenue — an area the bugs have dubbed one of their favorite breeding grounds — to talk about the film and the bug that stars in it.
“I first took an interest in the brown marmorated stink bug in 1998. I was visiting family in North East Pennsylvania,” he said. “That’s near Erie, to be clear. . . it was a warm, autumn night and I was lying in bed, just about to fall asleep, and I heard this delightful buzzing above me. At first I was startled. I thought it might be a bee or a wasp, but it turned out to be a harmless little stink bug,” he said, chuckling. “Some say they are pests, but they really aren’t. I hope to educate and enlighten people through my film.”
Professor “T,” as his students call him, said he is outraged by the ignorance and social prejudices facing the stink bug. “There are so many misconceptions about this insect, which only came to this country to make a better life for itself and live the American dream,” he said.
According to Penn State University’s Department of Entomology website, the BMSB has origins in China, Japan, Korea and Taiwan. It is considered to be a pest of fruit, vegetables and farm crops in the Mid-Atlantic region and it is probable that it will become a pest of these commodities in other areas in the United States.
Professor T. disagrees. “Its positive attributes far outweigh any negatives,” he said. He cited a solid work ethic, the fact that these bugs mate for life, and their ability to overcome both stinkiness and a very unattractive brown shell in order to lead normal, productive lives, as some of their best qualities.
He is asking everyone in The 570 to consider these qualities before they suck one up in the vacuum cleaner, flush one down the toilet, brutally stomp it to death, or use it as a cat toy. “They’re not pretty bugs,” he said, shaking his head. “No, they aren’t. But they’re good bugs. And we must rise above this prejudice and give them a fair chance in the world.”
— julie imel
A screening of Save the Stink Bug will be held at the University of Manamana in Room 215 of Luna Hall on March 31 at 7 p.m. Following the screening, guests will be invited to adopt an orphaned stink bug in their neighborhood, and sign a petition in support of adding the stink bug to the Endangered Species List. For more information, visit Save the Stink Bug on Facebook.