Zebra mussel

Readers bugged by wine-spoiling stinkbugs

Stinkbugs accidentally harvested with grapes and fermented during the winemaking process release a pungent stress compound. It takes only three stinkbugs per grape cluster to ruin red wine’s taste, Elizabeth S. Eaton reported in “Red wine has stinkbug threshold” (SN: 3/18/17, p. 5).

“Does contamination of wine by the bugs’ stress compound pose any health risk to consumers?” asked Hal Heaton. “And does someone really count the number of stinkbugs on each of the huge number of grape bunches picked?”

The hormone emitted by stressed stinkbugs, (E)-2-decenal, is also found in cilantro, says Elizabeth Tomasino, a food scientist at Oregon State University in Corvallis who did the research. “It is actually found at much higher concentrations in cilantro than in wine and is not a health risk,” Tomasino says.

As for counting stinkbugs, there are people who count bugs on the vines, but not by bunch as the researchers did. “What typically occurs is that someone will put a sheet under a plant and beat the leaves to see how many fall out,” Tomasino says. Another approach involves walking through the vineyard and counting as many bugs as possible in three-minute increments, she says.

Troubled waters

Science journalist Dan Egan’s book, The Death and Life of the Great Lakes, chronicles the impacts of global trade, urbanization and climate change on the lakes and communities that depend on them. Invasive species, including zebra and quagga mussels, have been particularly damaging, Cassie Martin wrote in her review “Invaders, climate change threaten Great Lakes” (SN: 3/18/17, p. 30).

A translucent crab discovered nearly 20 years ago has finally been identified as a distinct species. Researchers dubbed…

Invasive species, climate change threaten Great Lakes

zebra mussels
BAD NEIGHBORS Zebra mussels (shown) and other invasive species are just one of many threats to the Great Lakes’ ecosystems, as detailed in a new book.

The Death and Life of the Great Lakes
Dan Egan
W.W. Norton & Co., $27.95

Every summer, people flock to the Great Lakes to swim and fish in the seemingly infinite waters and hike along the idyllic shores. But an ominous undercurrent flows just out of sight. Below the water’s surface rages an environmental catastrophe 200 years in the making.

In The Death and Life of the Great Lakes, journalist Dan Egan describes how the lakes’ natural history gave way to an unnatural one. From the effects of global trade and urbanization to climate change, the book offers an exhaustive (and sometimes exhausting) account of the abuses the lakes have endured.

Scars left by retreating glaciers and a failed continental rift, lakes Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie and Superior are more like inland seas, holding about 20 percent of Earth’s surface freshwater. The lakes were mostly isolated…