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Make way for more stinkbugs

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Published on: Thursday, February 07, 2013

By Lauren Loricchio

They stink and their numbers are growing.

The brown marmorated stink bug is a pest that has plagued Marylanders for the past several years. They are found in homes and gardens and while the bug doesn’t bite, it can produce a foul odor if you step on it or otherwise handle it.

University of Maryland Professor of Entomology Michael Raupp said you can get used to seeing more of them this year as the population is “way up.”  

“The data is in, and it shows a rise in stink bug population at the end of 2012,” Raupp said.

While it is hard to determine the exact number of the invasive pests, a warmer than normal winter and a lack of natural predators in the area mean the population this year could “be biblical,” said Paul Shrewsbury of the University of Maryland.

Montgomery County farmers were hit the hardest in 2010 by stink bugs that damaged fruit and vegetable harvests.  

According to published reports the pests likely came in a crate from Asia with fruit about five years ago or more. Since then the population has grown immensely. No pesticide is known to kill it. It’s only known predator is an Asian wasp which some professors recommend introducing into the local environment to control the hearty stink bug.

Tests to see the impact the wasp will have on the environment have delayed the introduction of the wasp outside of the lab, according to a University of Maryland report.

The bugs have destroyed agriculture crops in Montgomery County and across the United States.  Stink bugs feed on a variety of plants, including fruit-bearing plants and trees, vegetables, herbaceous plants, and ornamental trees.  

 “Stink bugs began to damage agriculture in Montgomery County in 2010 and clobbered orchardists and berry growers, Raupp said.

Wade Butler, owner of Butler’s Orchard, has experienced firsthand the effects of the brown marmorated stink bug on his farm.  Butler’s farm uses integrated pest management, which uses pesticides to kill insects at low levels, but the stink bug has still destroyed some of his crops.

“Our work for the past 20 to 30 years has been ruined.  We’ve been dealt a setback from the stink bug,” Butler said.

“We’re cautiously optimistic that we’ll have lower numbers for the spring, Butler said.” “This year we’re hoping the weather will help kill some of the stink bugs.”

There are some signs that nature will take care of the problem itself.

“Many of the non-native bugs are beginning to attack stink bugs,” Raupp said.

Raupp said he has been working on research to determine which plants serve as food hosts for stink bugs, so that he can recommend plants to stay away from.

Stinkbugs are likely to make their way inside homes through cracks and crevices as they look for shelter during the cold weather. When the weather is warmer they are attracted to the local plant life and settle outside. These plants include lilacs, redbud trees, lindens, and some maple trees.  Raupp said certain spruce trees, pine trees, cedar trees, oak trees, elm trees, and some types of maple trees do not attract stink bugs.

For more information about the brown marmorated stink bug and ways to keep them out of your home, visit the following website for more information: http://www.hgic.umd.edu/content/brownstinkbug.cfm

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