The pest that really stinks

‘Major concern’ exists over brown marmorated stink bug invasion

By: Brian Louwers | Warren Weekly | Published November 4, 2015

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METRO DETROIT — The brown marmorated stink bug really does stink, but the feared impact of its continued invasion goes much further than olfactory repugnance. 

“There is a major concern over the damage that the brown marmorated stink bug could do to our agricultural production, as well as concern for the damage to backyard gardens,” said Mary Gerstenberger, a consumer horticulture educator with the Michigan State University Extension in Macomb County. 

According to a bulletin posted on Sept. 30 by Diane Brown, an extension educator for consumer horticulture and commercial fruit with the MSU Extension in Ingham County, brown marmorated stink bugs are exotic pests native to Asia that have been responsible for damaging ornamental plants and a wide variety of high-value, specialty agricultural crops grown in Michigan. The list of crops susceptible to damage from brown marmorated stink bugs includes tomatoes, sweet peppers, corn, soybeans, apples, raspberries, peaches, pears and cherries.

“I think one of the most important things to know is that they have a very wide host range — probably 300 different plants,” Brown said. “And if they’re in your house, they don’t bite. They don’t lay eggs in your house. They’re basically just looking for a place to overwinter.”

The first brown marmorated stink bug specimen was captured in the United States in 1999 with an insect trap in New Jersey managed by Rutgers University. Brown marmorated stink bugs have since been identified in 29 states, mostly in the mid-Atlantic region, but also including areas of Oregon and southern California.

Brown marmorated stink bugs were positively identified in Ohio in 2007; in Illinois in 2009; and in the state of Michigan five years ago, in the fall of 2010. Experts say that distribution likely is wider than reported, as has been the case with other invasive species.

Anyone dealing with the bugs should know that they are called stink bugs for a reason. The bugs emit an unpleasant odor when crushed. 

“Homeowners might be more concerned about finding the insects invading their homes in the fall,” Gerstenberger said. “If found in the home, it is usually recommended to vacuum them up. Preferably use an old vacuum or a Shop-Vac — something that can be designated for that purpose, as the bugs could stink up the vacuum used.”

Brown said homeowners should avoid flushing the bugs down the toilet as a method of disposal because that wastes water. As an alternative, she suggested submerging the bugs in a container of soapy water.

As has been the case with other species, including Asian beetles, stink bugs will exploit gaps in the foundation of homes, open windows or torn screens, unprotected vents, and other access points in search of warm places. Once inside, they’ll hide in walls or in other protected spaces. 

Trapping or preserving brown marmorated stink bugs for positive identification is also helpful, as experts continue to track their spread. 

Suspected brown marmorated stink bugs can be sent to the local MSU Extension office for identification or mailed directly to Michigan State University Diagnostic Services, 101 Center for Integrated Plant Systems, East Lansing, MI 48824. 

Specimens should be placed in a dry box with tissue paper or in a small, leak-proof vial containing white vinegar.

Commercial growers, residential gardeners and homeowners who positively identify stink bugs are encouraged to report sightings online through the Midwest Invasive Species Information Network’s website at www.misin.msu.edu/report.

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