A friend asked me the other evening if I was happier now that I was back in the US. I said that I could not really reply, because I don’t think that happiness is measured on a simple or single scale: it depends on a lot of things and could be hard to assess as those things change. Case in point. I lived for three years in Barbados and during that time the island was locked in a constant battle over what to do with an invasion of African snails. Whether they had come by ship or air as part of cargo may be part of conjecture, but the impact was that these munchers of much vegetation were taking over parts of the island. They thrived in moist conditions and where there was lots of leafy material. They had no natural predator in the island. The government offered a bounty on their little heads. They offered bait to try to eradicate them. They extolled people to clear brush, etc. Nothing was really working, and for us, it was a problem that seemed go away then erupt again after every heavy downpour. I left Barbados a few weeks ago and left behind the problem of the snails.
Cue Washington. I heard, with a wry smile on my face, the chirping of the cicadas as the summer heat became intense. Ah, what a reminder of the blistering heat that was. But, as the heat started to lessen and the nights turn very cool over the past few weeks, we enjoyed being able to go outside at almost any time and also live without the air conditioning (AC). But, I also noticed some other sounds. Not the clatter of the cicadas, but the flapping of tiny wings. Then, I noticed that as the days progressed the screens on my house started to sprout insects. I sent my wife a message a few days ago–on the first day of autumn–warning that the stink bug season seemed to be underway; I was going to close up the windows again and get the AC back on. Some of the insects had already started to get in and set up camp for the winter. I read quickly what I could on the Internet: they seemed harmless to humans, but could devastate certain vegetation; they gave off a nasty odour if attacked; they looked for warm settings to hibernate and would creep into houses where they could; insecticide treatments were not really effective. I rounded up as many as I could and thought that I would see how things progressed.
So, another wry smile on my face appeared this morning when I saw the front page of the Washington Post heralding “Big bug trouble…”: the brown, marmorated stink bug was due to invade homes in what was termed ‘Biblical’ numbers. Holy invasion, Batman! So, like Barbados, this part of the US has been invaded by an insect with no local predators.
I know that I cannot stop them coming in, though I can limit that: the house has a chimney and attic space, and there are cracks or little openings all over the place that I may not know about. I can just hope that they behave properly and wait in line to get in: I saw a group having a meeting in the corner of a bedroom and as I eavesdropped on their chatter, I could hear their plans for overwintering and taking in the NFL season in comfort.
I may take the approach some do of letting them be and let their arrival remind me that the seasons are changing.