Stink bugs had never been big news until about five years ago when they started invading homes and crops in larger numbers than normal. When entomologists and pest control companies analyzed the problem it was quickly realized that the culprits weren’t domestic stink bugs. They are actually members of the brown marmorated stink bug species, and though they aren’t from America they have come to stay with a vengeance.
What is a Stink Bug?
The brown marmorated stink bug is a true “bug.” Bugs are distinctive from other insects because of their mouths, called rostra. The rostrum of a stink bug is specialized for piercing the succulent parts of a plant or fruit and sucking out the sap or juices inside—which will kill the plant or blight the fruit. Stink bugs have scent glands on their thoraxes between their two front legs which emit a particularly noxious odor when the bug is disturbed. They don’t bite and can’t carry diseases, but between their penchant for eating crop and decorative plants and their odor they’re not man’s best friend.
What does the Brown Marmonated Stink Bug Look Like?
Similar to all other members of its genus, the brown marmorated stink bug is shaped like a shield, with a broad, three-pointed top and narrowly-pointed bottom to its carapace (wing case). They have two antennae with characteristic white spots along their length, reddish-brown eyes and are silvery-brown in color overall with darker and lighter mottling. They are a bit larger than a dime in diameter and can fly for long distances, landing to feed and rest in warm, bright spots where food is plentiful. They have been found in all states except for the Southwestern States—for now.
Where is this Stinkbug from?
Brown marmorated stink bugs are indigenous to Asia, especially China and the Koreas. It isn’t known exactly how they got there but these stink bugs were first identified in Allentown, PA, in 1990, and their numbers have been skyrocketing ever since. They have few natural predators in North America and are not easily killed with pesticides. They are strong fliers, breed quickly in warm conditions, and have a voracious appetite for cash crops such as apples, peaches, soybeans, corn and cotton. New England apple growers reported losing $37 million in 2010 from stink bug infestations alone.
How Do We Get Rid of It?
Unfortunately the brown marmorated stink bug has gained such strong population numbers that it is unlikely they will ever be completely eradicated from the U.S. anytime soon. They are particularly resistant to the normal pesticides which keep domestic stink bug populations in check, except in when used in high doses for treating crops. Unfortunately these chemicals are highly toxic and can’t be used indoors in such concentrations. Frustrated homeowners will have to content themselves for now with preventive measures and baiting and trapping methods.
Any Light on the Horizon?
Scientists are experimenting with isolating the pheromones from male brown marmorated stink bugs to see if they can develop a scent lure for them, like the Japanese have done with their native stink bug population. If that happens it could possibly mean better bait trapping methods. Also, there is the potential for using predatory insects and birds to reduce the populations. Certain flies and wasps are known to kill large numbers of brown marmorated stink bugs in their native habitats. However, caution always has to be used when introducing foreign species to an environment.
Although the brown marmorated stink bug is currently winning against most human efforts to contain it there is hope for the future. Homeowners have to exercise preventive measures to keep these smelly bugs out of their homes in the first place and concentrate on keeping the populations down outside.