Stink bugs: Back, in a big way

CHARLES TOWN — The brown marmorated stink bug is back and in much bigger numbers than last year.

“We started out with a very few stink bugs this season. Now we are seeing a six fold increase over last year,” said Tracey Leskey, a research entomologist at the Appalachian Fruit Research Station in Kearneysville.

Leskey said last year’s numbers were mild due to unfriendly weather.

“The weather patterns, tropical storms and such caused a lot of mortality last fall,” Leskey said.

However, the early spring warm weather gave the bugs an early start. The insect has completed two generations in the region. The nymphs go through five different stages to reach adulthood, but they do it in 30 days.

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

Matt Rehberg, 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,” Rehberg said.

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

Leskey said the bug also eats peaches, corn, soy bean, tomatoes, peppers, beans and other vegetables.

Leskey said researches are learning about the different wild hosts and how they an 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 some researchers have expanded their list of potential killers to include baited traps and a native bug, the even uglier “wheelbug.”

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.

The parasitoid wasp from China is a primary predator of the stink bug. The U.S. is undergoing a study for possible introduction of the wasp in 2013.

Leskey said scientists have made some progress in creating a pheromone lure that can attract the stink bug. The lure is currently being tested.

Leskey said attracting stink bugs is helpful in several ways for research, but the best remedy will be to lure them to a specific place where they can be annihilated.

Kristen Dorsey from Shamanic Herbalist, Divine Journeys said spraying them when they are covering an outside of a wall or window works best.

“I use a combination of bleach and soap in a hose end sprayer, and then wet them heavily with the solution. That seems to kill most of them, and repel them for a short time,” she said.

Dorsey said for the interior she uses glue traps that lure the bugs in with light. “These traps are not available at hardware and improvement stores. I simply vacuum the bugs up. It gets a tad smelly, but at least they are not buzzing around my home.”

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

Leskey said it’s easy to see why. Each female stink bug carries 10 egg sacks with 28 eggs each.

“For now, my advice would be to seal your house,” she said.

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