DATELINE: NITA AVENUE
While neighbors are pulling felled palm fronds out of front yard chicken enclosures and chasing patio umbrellas down the street as they tumble back home towards Big Lots, Merl Zygmont of Nita Avenue, in the tight knit NitWick neighborhood,
is busy dealing with some unexpected house guests.
"A few of them flew in last night when I was bringing in groceries. They were buzzing around so loudly I thought they were bees. Then I managed to smash one with a rolled up newspaper [Not the Quilt, we hope! - ed.] and, oh boy, that was a mistake! It stunk something awful."
Yes indeed, the long-awaited stink bugs have finally come to Canoga Park.
|One of Merl Zygmont's stink bugs investigates a cupboard door. Staff photo.
"Oh, we've been tracking their progress across the country for some time now," says Dr. Morris Detzer, Chief Entomologist at Pierce College Winnetka. "Frankly, I'm surprised it's taken them this long. I guess the recent winds were just the push they needed to get them over the Santa Susana Mountains and now here they are."
|Dr. Morris Detzer. Photo: Mimi Detzer
While many Canoga Park residents are familiar with their smaller (and less noxious) green cousins, brown marmorated stink bugs are a sight - and smell - new to the area. Introduced to America in 1998 in Pennsylvania from the mysterious Orient, the hardy insect soon gained a foothold in its new home and, much like democracy did some six hundred years ago, spread outward across our great nation.
But this is by no means a full-blown invasion, insists Detzer. "Oh no. Oh no, no, no, no, no! Things will get a lot worse - a lot worse - before they get better, if they ever get better. All I can say is don't bother planting any soybeans," he adds with a sardonic chuckle while shaking his head. "Just don't waste your time."
But a representative of the Canoga Park Friendly Neighborhood Council doesn't share the professor's opinion.
"We're not all that concerned," asserts Invasive Species Coordinator Paul Lindgren as he opens a manilla envelope labeled "Stink Bug Invasion Contingency Plan" and pulls out a small green card. "We're counting on our large crane fly population to take care of the problem. Nature always finds a way."
|Unsealed: The CPFNC's bold plan addresses a nightmarish "What if?"
scenario should the brown stink bug population start to grow. Staff photo.
"I spent a half-hour this afternoon chasing them around with the vacuum like some kind of jackass. So I've kind of given up. It's a little unsettling. They're noisy and they bang into everything."
|Nature's Acrobat: The brown marmorated stink bug has the ability to walk
upside-down; in this case, on the ceiling. (The photograph was achieved by
standing on a chair below and pointing the camera lens skyward.) Staff photo.
"No, I'm actually asking you. Do you know?"