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Stinky bugs laying siege to Western Washington

A state entomologist says the Western conifer seed bug is invading our area in much larger numbers than normal this fall. (Andy Reago & Chrissy McClarren via Creative Commons)

If you’ve noticed a bunch of big, brown bugs creeping and crawling around your home lately, you’re not alone.

The brightly colored Western conifer seed bug is laying siege to Western Washington, says Arlo Pelegrin, an entomologist with the Washington State Department of Agriculture.

The bugs, which feed on the cones of pine trees and other conifers, tend to start looking for a warm, dry place for the winter every year. But Pelegrin says this year they’re a lot more prevalent than usual.

“They’re more common east of the Cascades, but this year we’re starting to see a lot more west of the Cascades,” he says.

Pelegrin says he’s not sure why there’s such an infestation this year. It could be because of the wet weather earlier this spring.

The bugs are harmless, but they can be a big nuisance. And they aren’t afraid of us at all.

“They know they have this chemical weapon inside them, so that predators aren’t going to mess with them. They don’t fly away, they don’t run away,” Pelegrin says.

That chemical is pretty smelly. While it can be tempting to smash the big, colorful bugs, Pelegrin urges you not to.

“If you smash them, then the stink will get all over everything. It’s a pretty weird smell that’s not very pleasant,” he says.

In general, there’s no reason to smash the harmless critters, he says. Just grab them and put them outside instead. But Pelegrin admits they can be pretty persistent and do their best to make their way back into your cozy confines.

As for keeping them out, the best advice is to close up any potential points of entry by caulking gaps around things like door and window frames, and replacing loose fitting screens.

You can follow Arlo on Twitter @ArloPelegrin.

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