Raising a stink:

Busy breeding season means big comeback

CHARLES TOWN — Their numbers held back last year by unfavorable weather, the brown marmorated stink bug is back and in much bigger numbers.

Tracey Leskey, a research entomologist who studies the stink bug at the Appalachian Fruit Research Station in Kearneysville, said researchers are seeing a sixfold increase over last year’s population.

The brown marmorated stink bug caused $37 million damage tothe apple industry in 2010.

The brown marmorated stink bug caused $37 million damage to
the apple industry in 2010.

Leskey said last year’s tropical storms and heavy rains resulted in a high mortality rate for the insect, but mild weather has got them off to an early start this season. Regionally, the bugs have completed two generations. Nymphs go through five different stages to reach adulthood, but they do it in 30 days. Each female stink bug carries 10 egg sacks with 28 eggs.

“They are now pouring into homes looking for a safe heaven until they can emerge next spring to lay eggs, Leskey said.”

Matt Rehberg, the manager of Southern States in Ranson, said he has received lots of complaints about the stink bug.

“We’ve been trying to control them in the fields by spraying the perimeter of the soybean crops, corn crops and along hedgerows,” he said.

The bug caused $37 million damage to the apple industry in 2010.

“And that’s just one crop. Think about the other crops damaged by the bug,” Leskey said. “They eat peaches, corn, soybean, tomatoes, peppers, beans and other principal vegetables.”

The brown marmorated stink bug is believed to have been accidentally introduced into the United States in a packing crate from China or Japan that was shipped to Allentown, Penn.

As part of efforts to understand the stink bug’s development, Leskey said researchers are learning about its different hosts and how they can influence the stink bug population. Some of the hosts the bug uses are hardwood trees that produce a lot of seeds.

“The bug sucks the seed of white ash and box elder,” she said.

Leskey said researchers also have expanded their list of potential killers to include baited traps and a native bug — the even uglier “wheelbug.”

“Those are being studied at a speeded-up pace as (it is) a tiny wasp that is the stink bug’s known killer in China,” she said.

In other efforts to combat the insect, scientists have made some progress in creating a pheromone lure that can attract the stink bug, Leskey said. The lure is currently being tested.

In the meantime, some folks have come up with their own home-based remedies for eliminating stink bugs from their homes and yards.

Kristen Dorsey from Shamanic Herbalist, Divine Journeys said she sprays the exterior of her house with a combination of bleach and soap in a hose end sprayer, and then wet the bugs heavily with the solution.

“That seems to kill most of them, and repel them for a short time,” she said, adding for the interior of her house she uses glue traps that lure the bugs in with light.

“These traps are not available at hardware and improvement stores,” she said. “I simply vacuum the bugs up. Yes, it gets a tad smelly, but at least they are not buzzing around my home.”

As bad as this year’s population is expected to be, next year’s will likely be even worse, Leskey said.

“The strong fall second generation is a good indicator that next year’s population will be even stronger,” she said. “A large population now means a potentially larger population will exit in the spring.”

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