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Bugs raising a stink from farm to mansion

September 27, 2010

I got a call last week from a gentleman wanting to know if I could clone Stink, my stink bug-eating rooster. The caller said he'd take 10.

The sad truth is that Stink is stuffed to the gills. All our free-range chickens are. No lie, they don't even bother to come around at 4 in the afternoon anymore, the time when I usually throw them a pot of cracked corn.

I go out looking for chickens to feed, but those that I see give me that "No, really, I couldn't eat another bite" look that is quite out of character for any farm critter.

I wouldn't say that the poultry is winning the war, but it's holding its own. Our buildings are completely stink bug-free up to 3 feet above ground. Higher than that, it gets ugly fast.

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We have, however, gotten some help from an unexpected quarter -- the otherwise-hated Bourbon Red turkeys, for whom height is really no object. The other morning, I heard a tempest of machine-gun-like clacks up on one of the tin roofs and discovered the sound was coming from three turkey hens pecking up stink bugs by the bushel.

At this point, I need to interrupt myself and point out that I warned all you people about stink bugs maybe three years ago. No one listened to me, and now look.

Orchardists and farmers are saying that stink bugs are destroying their crops. Stink bugs are finding their way into even the nicest homes and fanciest vineyards.

"We're several years behind in research because we didn't recognize the danger," said none other than U.S. Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, who is asking Congress for $3 million in funding to battle a "danger that could become a plague of biblical proportions."

I know, I know. If stink bugs were a California phenomenon and some Democratic lawmaker were asking for $3 million to study them, Bartlett would be leading the high-pitched cackling over government waste and using this "$3 million to combat, get this, stink bugs, har har har" as Exhibit A in runaway federal spending.

But appearances have never bothered Bartlett one stitch, and besides, to my mind, he could justifiably categorize the anti-stink appropriation as a matter of national defense.

I had actually gotten used to the things, but this year they seem to have turned aggressive, and all up in your face and stuff. It's kind of like the way you could at least tolerate Sally Field until she started doing the BONIVA advertisements.

They're doing these kamikaze numbers, spooking the horses, ravaging fruit and, as Bartlett says, "If you wanted to design a terrorist bug, it would have the features of the brown marmorated stink bug."

Today, they're stuffing themselves into your window jambs; tomorrow, they'll be building a mosque at ground zero and getting themselves interviewed on al Jazeera.

Not that I don't trust the government, but I'm thinking that it might not be smart to wait around until it comes up with a solution. And short of buying another 100,000 chickens, there's only one course of action that's open to me.

I'm trying to teach myself to like the smell.

I don't have a vineyard or an orchard to speak of and, being a guy, I'm not quite as creeped out by their sheer numbers as most women would be. So the only thing left for me to get over is the rank fragrance.

That means that if I can convince myself that they really smell like garden-fresh herbs, I won't have any grudges left against them. At least I wouldn't if they would stop flying into my mouth.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 6997, or by e-mail at timr@herald-mail.com">timr@herald-mail.com. Tune in to the Rowland Rant video under opinion@herald-mail.com">opinion@herald-mail.com, on antpod.com or on Antietam Cable's WCL-TV Channel 30 evenings at 6:30. New episodes are released every Wednesday.

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