COLUMBIA (AP) - Lifelong Columbia-area resident Andy Strube had a problem about a year ago.
Actually, many thousands of them, crawling and flying everywhere in the home his family was renting near Columbia High School.
The name of Strube's problem is familiar to homeowners, farmers and anyone who has fruit and vegetable plants - and just about anyone who ventures outside.
Andy Strube adjusts his hanging stink bug trap Wednesday in Columbia.
It's the dreaded stiretrus anchorago, otherwise known as the stink bug.
His home "inundated" by the bugs, Strube, with no experience in pest control, got tired of spending hundreds of dollars on extermination efforts and began experimenting with his own trap.
It used a combination of light, which attracts stink bugs, and a fruit-and-vegetable mixture that acts as a lure.
He had some hits and misses but kept working and soon found the right combination.
"It was kind of my own stink bug solution," the 36-year-old Strube said Wednesday, smiling.
Over the last year, he estimates he has killed more than 17,000 stink bugs, which devastate fruit crops, cornfields and the like, in his home on Fairview Road in West Hempfield Township, just outside Columbia.
"I'm just glad I came up with an idea that's able to help people," he said of his new device, the "Strube Stink Bug Trap."
Strube, who's now getting emails from Europe about his traps and is waiting for a promised phone call from the Discovery Channel for a possible feature, is going into business.
He won approval from Columbia's zoning board last week to open the business at 40 N. Third St. in the borough. He believes it's the first of its kind here.
Someone jokingly called the business "Stink Bug Central," but it's all serious work.
Strube has been working 20-hour days, having been contracted to work for an area orchard business, farms and the like to help them eradicate the pests.
"And stink bugs work at night," said Strube, who has the arms of a weightlifter but got them from climbing up and down trees and lifting his traps.
Since the bugs work at night, he does, too.
He has a patent pending for his traps, which sell for $45 ($55 by mail order) and use what his webpage calls "a killer combination of light, scent and gooey glue to ensure no one (who's a bug) escapes!"
An enclosed light source grabs the stink bugs' attention and, once the bug flies into range, the all-natural secret scent (which Strube won't reveal), heated by the light, spreads an aroma luring the insects closer.
That combination gets the bugs to land on the outside of the traps, which are covered by a "super-sticky, non-toxic glue . ensuring the trap is their final stop," states Strube's webpage, www.stinkbugtrapsonline.com.
Strube is a former private airplane pilot and mechanic, who lost his job in the aviation industry during the economic downturn of recent years.
The Columbia zoning board on July 27 approved a request to convert the first floor of the 40 N. Third St. building, which has been vacant for years but had been Columbia's old telephone company, into "a facility for the manufacture and sale of stink bug traps."
Once the bugs stick to the traps and die, they can be disposed of by taking off a removable sleeve.
Strube estimates he has sold 10,000 of the traps, to everyone from farmers and businesses to a Pittsburgh-based newspaper gardening columnist and radio host.
Strube received Columbia Borough's permission to hire up to 20 people.
While many people say stink bugs now seem to be less of a problem, Strube said they're actually just breeding and will be out in force again within a few weeks.
Strube leases the space for his new business from developer David Doolittle, the former telephone building's owner.
Doolittle and Strube, in going to Columbia's zoning board, needed a variance from the zoners, and their request "was very well received, because of the job creation" with the business, Doolittle said Wednesday.
"The residents from the nearby community really came out and spoke in favor of it . and Columbia (officials) really made it clear that anybody who brings in jobs will be accommodated."
A few questions were raised about parking and noise, but "it's a very quiet operation, not like an assembly operation," Doolittle said.
"People seem to think it's pretty neat that someone is going after (stink bugs)," Doolittle said.