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LifestyleColumnistsJessica Damiano

Acorns and stink bugs and deer, oh my!

Although stink bugs don't bite, cause structural damage

Although stink bugs don't bite, cause structural damage or pose any human health hazard, they emit an awful odor when squashed, so avoid stepping on them. Credit: AP / Mel Evans

If you live on Long Island and you’ve been outdoors at all in the past month, surely you’ve noticed at least one of these oddities. Personally, I’ve experienced two of the three, but I’m lucky like that.

A few weeks back, when exiting my car on Main Street in Port Washington, my vehicle and I both were pelted with acorns. Looking up, I saw I’d parked right under a majestic oak, which didn’t seem quite so righteous as it was threatening to dent my Toyota.

Then an odd, armor-shaped bug that has had a local presence for only a few short years made an appearance in my house. I knew better than to kill it, so I scooped it up and showed it the door.

And readers who live east of my northwestern Nassau home have reported an abundance of deer, something many of my neighbors — with a soft spot for Bambi and innocent of any decimating experience perpetrated by his relatives — would practically welcome. “Quick! Get the kids! Grab the camera! There’s a deer outside!” I’ve done it myself. And that’s understandable when you see literally one deer a year, at most. But folks out east know better, and they’re not rolling out the red carpet.

They know, too, that deer can defoliate entire trees overnight. Hollyhocks, impatiens, crocuses, daylilies, hostas, roses and tulips are exceptionally special treats, and most arborvitaes don’t stand a chance.

No bucking the system

The deer mating season lasts from October through January and, let’s be honest, they’re out and about in droves looking to hook up. This creates an actual hazard for nighttime drivers, as hitting a deer could prove fatal — or at least damaging to your car, the deer or yourself.

The Village of Nissequogue has posted an official warning on its website, advising residents to remain alert, reduce speed at night, use headlights and brights, and heed deer-crossing signs. In addition, “if you see a white-tailed deer, there will be more than one, and they will likely run into your path,” the warning noted. “The eyes of a deer are reflective at night. If you see reflective dots of light up ahead be cautious. If you do hit a deer, slowly pull to the roadside to assess the situation and turn on your hazard flashers. If the deer is dead or injured, call 911.”

Little stinkers

Are you acquainted with the brown marmorated stink bug? I first wrote about them three years ago, when their numbers on Long Island grew to the point that people were starting to notice them. They’re still growing.

Originally from Asia, the bugs are believed to have been accidentally introduced to Pennsylvania in the 1990s. They were first spotted in Maryland in 2003, and reproduced prolifically, destroying crops along the mid-Atlantic coast as they worked their way north.

I hope this reaches you before you instinctively squash one of them. If you have already done so, you’ve likely gained a healthy respect for the reasoning behind its common name: Crushing the 1⁄2 -inch to 3⁄4 -inch shield-shaped bugs causes them to release a foul, pungent odor you’re not likely to forget.

The bugs are generalist feeders, which means they consider your entire garden an all-you-can-eat buffet, and if swarms are large enough, they can damage trees and plants. They don’t bite, cause structural damage or pose any human health hazard, however, but like so many other pests, they are seeking shelter indoors now that temperatures are dropping.

Should you have the unfortunate experience of finding hundreds of them in your home, say, under your baseboards or in window and door frames, vacuum them up, seal the vacuum bag in a plastic bag and discard in the trash — outside.

Acorns aplenty

Much like many fruit trees, which put all their energy into producing an abundant crop one year and then seemingly take the following year off to rest, producing just a few, oak trees shed acorns in cycles. This is an on-year on Long Island, to which my car and head — and possibly yours — can attest.

The cycle is longer for oaks than for, say, pears, as we see an increase in acorns only once every three to five years.

In addition to dodging acorns in the street, some residents have reported having to clean and rake lawns this year before any leaves even dropped. Others have had to fish them out of their ponds on a daily basis. And sweep their driveways.

There’s no way around this, alas, and my only advice is to avoid parking under oak trees, be careful when walking so as not to slip or trip, and look out for squirrels.


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