Beware the Stinkbug: A Plague of Epic Proportions?
Are we in store for a plague of pests that would make the plague of locusts in Exodus look like a minor nuisance? We may be, if researchers' predictions come true.
The Brown Marmorated Stink Bug, as defined by researchers at Penn State University, are brown sheild-shaped insects that are approximately 3/4 inch long. This particular type of stink bug has "lighter bands on the antennae, and darker bands on the membranous overlapping part, at the rear of the front pair of wings."
The insect is thought to have hopped over to the United States in 1998. The bug was first captured in Allentown, PA, but not officially identified until 2001. It was later found in New Jersey (2002), Maryland (2003), and West Virginia (2004) before spreading to 27 states and the District of Columbia.
The invasive species is native to China, Japan, Korea, and Taiwan. It feeds on over 300 host plants, including legumes, tree plants including, stone fruits, apples, pears, in addition to corn, as well as ornamentals.
You may have already seen them crawling through your house, or smelled the strong stench of the stinkbugs that were inadvertently crunched underfoot. Many folks even posted YouTube videos last summer, complaining of the "Hitchcock" like invasion.
What can be done?
Tracy Leskey,is a research entomologist with the USDA-ARS Appalachian Fruit Research Station in Kearneysville, West Virginia, and one of the country's foremost experts on the insect. She notes that the USDA is currently researching what insecticides are effective against this growing threat. If you see the offensive bugs, she notes, collect them and send to your state department of agriculture for identification and testing.
And remember - while your first instinct may be to spray chemicals, the spraying of aerosol insecticides is not a long-term solution to this infestation, according to Penn State University.
Will this plague rival that of the Bible? We'll find out this summer.
Photo by Gary Bernon, USDA APHIS