When 36-year-old Andy Strube lost his job and had to sell his house, he never could have imagined it was a good thing. He used his equity to rent a house for himself and his three children in Columbia, Lancaster County.
He found out quickly the place was crawling with thousands of stink bugs.
"The house was so infested we had entomologists from Penn State University taking bags of stink bugs out to analyze," he said.
He couldn't sit down to dinner without the bugs landing on his plate, and at night they would drop on his face while he was trying to sleep.
The pests actually turned out to be a blessing in disguise for Mr. Strube. When he couldn't find an effective control, he decided to invent something. He tested all sorts of different ways in his home, starting by trying to get the bugs to crawl onto a sticky substance. Through trial and error he realized the secret was to get the stink bug to take flight and land on the trap. He hung a coffee can covered in glue next to a lamp and that's when he realized they were drawn to light.
He began to refine the idea and, using skills from his former job in aircraft maintenance, he designed and built different traps. Each version caught more bugs.
Mr. Strube continued to study the insects, keeping a colony in an aquarium and researching things that attracted them. He discovered they couldn't resist a cocktail he created of peppers and squash and put the mixture in an interchangeable cartridge inside the trap. When the fluorescent light heats up the cartridge, it releases the odor which humans can barely smell, but the bugs long for.
Friends who visited the house saw the traps and asked for one. As they reported back their successes, a business was born.
The Strube Stink Bug Trap is $50; a replacement cartridge is $20. Each cartridge will last about a month and is meant to catch hundreds of stink bugs. The traps are being sold at hardware stores near his home and can be found online. Since he began offering them online, he's sold hundreds that have caught tens of thousands of bugs, he says. Mr. Strube adds that a good portion of his business comes from the Pittsburgh area.
After I wrote about his invention, he sent me one to test on my minimal stink bug problem. I only see one or two a week. Inside the package was a flier warning that the glue is extremely sticky. I found that to be very true as I managed to get some cardboard, the power cord and the rope that hangs the trap stuck in it.
I installed it in an upstairs bathroom, where I know many of the bugs enter the house. I caught 10 bugs the first night, and the trap continues to lure the insects. The company's Facebook page is filled with photos of traps littered with dead stink bugs.
But not everyone has been as lucky. Since I first wrote about the traps, I've heard from three people who have not had success. Mr. Strube has also talked to a couple.
He offers some tips to get the most out of the trap. The warmer the area, the more active the bugs will be, he said. That means upper floors and attics, where heat collects are most conducive to catching stink bugs. Leaving the trap in one place and letting it run all night are essential to catching stink bugs. Turn off any other lights in the room. The trap needs to be the primary light source.
Mr. Strube has been swamped with orders. His family and friends are helping him keep up, but he's sleeping just a couple of hours a night between shifts building traps. He's hoping to strike a deal with a bigger company soon to increase production. He's also working on setting up summer trials outdoors to improve the trap's efficiency in the field, and he hopes his trap will help farmers and gardeners this season.
Moving into a house infested with stink bugs might not be everyone's idea of a good thing, but for Mr. Strube and his family it's turned his life around.
"This has been a godsend to us," he said. "It's unimaginable. It's just so awesome to be able to help people. It's a feeling I really can't explain."
For information about the Strube Stink Bug Trap: www.stinkbugtrapsonline.com or 1-717-449-3015.