If you live anywhere near the Eastern United States, you’ve probably noticed an increased number of stink bugs over the past few years.
Known by scientists as “Halyomorpha halys“, the brown marmorated stink bug is an insect native to China, Japan and Taiwan that was accidentally introduced into the United States in the late 1990s and has quickly become a serious pest to farmers, homeowners and the fragile eco-system of the Appalachian Mountains.
The bug, which receives its name for its ability to emit an odor through holes in its abdomen when it feels threatened or attempts to find a mate, invades homes in the fall in order to hibernate through winter; however, once inside, the warmth inside houses often causes them to become active during their winter hibernation — leading the invasive bug to fly clumsily around light fixtures.
The bugs are believed to have illegally entered the United States after hitching a ride as a stowaway in packing crates or on various types of machinery. The first documented specimen was collected in Allentown, Pennsylvania, in September 1998.
Several Muhlenberg College students were reported to have seen these bugs as early as August of that same year.
Between 2001 and 2010 there were fifty-four reported sightings of the brown marmorated stink bug at shipping ports in the United States.
By 2009, the bug had reached Maryland, West Virginia, Virginia, Tennessee, North Carolina, Kentucky, Ohio, Illinois, and Oregon.
As of 2010, seventeen states had been categorized as having established brown marmorated stink bug populations.
Currently, stink bug populations are on the rise because the climate in the United States is ideal for their reproduction. In optimal conditions, an adult stink bug will develop within 35 to 45 days after hatching. Female stink bugs are capable of laying four hundred eggs in their lifetime and the bugs are capable of producing at least one successful generation per year in all areas of the United States, no matter the climate. In warmer climates, multiple generations can occur annually.
In addition to becoming an additional pest for homeowners left to deal with, the brown stink bugs have become a serious threat to the nation’s agricultural community, as they feed on a wide array of plants including apples, apricots, Asian pears, cherries, corn, grapes, lima beans, peaches, peppers, tomatoes, and soybeans.
Their ability to sustain themselves upon a vast array of plants makes them extremely versatile as they do not require a specific plant to feed on.
Making stink bugs an even greater concern is the fact that the extremely mobile insects have no natural predator in America and the bugs are beginning to show signs of developing a resistance to pyrethroid insecticides, a common chemical used to combat infestations.
In Asia, a parasitoid wasp species known as the japonicus serves as the bugs’ primary predator; however, the wasp is not currently present in the United States.
Studies are presently underway reviewing the effects of introducing the wasp into the county, but this generally believed to be a bad idea due to the fact that japonicus wasp will also become an invasive species with no native predators. Before introducing the Chinese wasp, scientists are trying to find natural predators of the stink bug already present in the United States.
Researchers have also experimented with different spider species as well as the Wheel bug. Several spider species attacked both the eggs as well as live stink bugs in clinical studies.
The bottom line is this: as bad as the brown marmorated stink bug is becoming, the remedy may be worse than the disease… unless you’re a fan of vicious Asian wasps or spiders… lots of spiders!
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