Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Fear the Stinkbug

     The stinkbugs were thought to first arrive in the United States sometime in the late 1990’s or early 2000’s in a shipment of product from Asia, their country of origin. Experts first spotted the intruders near Allenstown, Pennsylvania. Now brown marmorated Stinkbugs can found in thirty nine different states across the United States, appearing to be particularly bad in the states of Maryland and Virginia. These nuisances have become extremely bothersome to farmers. The stinkbugs appear to have a particular fondness for apples, grapes, peaches, peppers, soybeans, and tomatoes but will attack and destroy just about any crop that they come across. In 2010, it was reported that stinkbugs caused $37 million in damages to the apple crop of the mid-Atlantic alone. Thankfully, research shows the cows that eat crops infested by stinkbugs will not pass the odor on or have any other effects on the animal’s product. Homeowners are also having stinkbug woes. Stinkbugs prefer to overwinter in attics and other warm areas in homes, emerging in the spring. Hundreds upon hundreds on them emerge at the same time, covering the insides and outsides of homes.
     Eradicating the pests has become quiet the challenge for researchers who have been studying the bugs since their arrival in the United States. Squashing a stinkbug causes them to emit an unpleasant odor. Native birds or other animals do not recognize them as prey, and insecticides wouldn’t appear to work because of how widespread the invaders have become. Traps are being implemented, but only with limited success. Scientists are now turning towards introducing a species of wasp, native to the stinkbug’s home range, which could potentially keep the stinkbug population in check. The tiny wasp lays her eggs inside the eggs of the stinkbug. As the larval wasp grows it feeds off the eggs of the stinkbug. Scientists worry however, that they could release the wrong species of wasp that could affect native populations or people, and much deliberation has to occur to pick the right one. 2010 was reported as the worst year for stinkbugs in the United States, and unfortunately for us, 2013 is shaping up to be just as bad.
    Having lived in Maryland my entire life, I can reassure everyone that the stinkbugs are getting worse. Seeing one every once in a while wasn’t so bad. But last year, my entire house was covered. My girlfriend screamed every time one flew into her hair, and worse yet they were getting into my food. There are a lot of farms in the area I live in, quite possibly adding to the burden I am faced with. We bought some traps from Lowe’s home improvement store but were unsatisfied with the results they produced. It would be easy for someone to get rich quick if they could figure out something that would help reduce the bug’s massive numbers. I am all for introducing a native predator to help stop them. Known as biological pest control, we have seen this method work before. It was implemented against the cottony cushion scale, a pest of the California citrus trade, which was controlled by the introduction of the vedalia beetle in the late 19th century.
--Justin Lemly

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