News / Science & Technology

Spread of Asian Stink Bug Threatens US Crops

Invasive stink bug on an olive branch in Oregon's Willamette Valley. (Vaughn Walton, OSU)
Invasive stink bug on an olive branch in Oregon's Willamette Valley. (Vaughn Walton, OSU)
Tom Banse
A smelly invasive bug continues to spread across the United States, alarming both farmers and scientists.

The name of this insect is a mouthful: the brown marmorated stink bug. Native to East Asia, the insect is causing crop losses from coast to coast in America.  Researchers are working on control measures, but some of those come with their own worries.  

One way scientists are following the spread of the brown marmorated stink bug is by setting traps. There are four traps at the edge of a blueberry field at Oregon State University's North Willamette research farm.

OSU entomologist Vaughn Walton points to a brown bug with a body shaped like a medieval shield and distinctive white stripes on its antennae. It's about the size of the fingernail on your ring finger.

It's called a stink bug for good reason. Many people say it's like a cilantro flavor," said Walton. "Some of the people in my lab used to like cilantro. Now they hate cilantro."

The brown marmorated stink bug is 1-2 centimeters in length (VOA/T. Banse)The brown marmorated stink bug is 1-2 centimeters in length (VOA/T. Banse)
x
The brown marmorated stink bug is 1-2 centimeters in length (VOA/T. Banse)
The brown marmorated stink bug is 1-2 centimeters in length (VOA/T. Banse)
Here's why this bug invasion raises alarms. A stink bug can transmit that flavor into berries and fruit when it feeds. It can hide in wine grape clusters and then taint the juice when the grapes are crushed. 

Early season attacks cause berries and nuts to shrivel. Stink bug bites leave blemishes on vegetables. U.S. Department of Agriculture research entomologist Tracy Leskey, who works on fruit trees in West Virginia, says the greatest crop damage has been reported in the mid-Atlantic region.

"Left untreated it would be a substantial loss," Leskey said. "In places where we are not controlling the insect for experimental purposes, we easily see 100 percent injury in those fruit."

North America has more than 200 native stink bug species, but farmers don't worry about most of them. They are focused on the more voracious variety that comes from East Asia.  Scientists first detected it in the United States in Pennsylvania, in the late 1990's. 

Vaughn Walton says the invasive species has multiplied and spread in all directions from there. "They are really good hitchhikers. They move on cars, on cargo, on trains and stuff like that."

The Asian stink bug has now been detected in 40 U.S. states and several Canadian provinces.

Back in Oregon's Willamette Valley, the bug is showing up in commercial crops for the first time this year.

"Hopefully we'll learn how to control this pest," said farmer Michelle Armstrong, who grows sweet corn and vegetables. "We definitely see it as a major threat."

The U.S. Agriculture Department is funding a number of university studies looking into control measures, but Armstrong says nothing has come on the market yet that specifically targets the brown marmorated stink bug.

"That's part of the worries for the growers," she said. "As a grower myself, what will I do when this pest gets in my field? I don't have a lot of options. We don't want to spray more than we have to."

Powerful insecticides do kill the bug, but also take out beneficial insects farmers want to keep around. So other options are getting a look. One is mass trapping using pheromone lures. The Oregon State science team says the long term solution probably involves bringing in the stink bug's natural predators which exist in East Asia.

"There's a wide range of parasitoids and predators from there," Walton said. "We've imported them. They're in quarantine. You can't release them because they can potentially affect other good bugs that we don't want to be affected."

The Agriculture Department says it will take several more years of research before scientists are more certain there won't be unintended consequences from introducing another non-native species onto U.S. farms.

You May Like

India PM Modi's party distances itself from religious conversions

BJP under fire for being slow to rein in hardline affiliate groups allegedly trying to promote a Hindu-dominant agenda by luring Muslims and Christians to convert to Hinduism More

Anti-Whaling Group Found in Contempt of Court

Radical environmentalists who threw acid and smoke bombs at Japanese whalers in the waters off Antarctica continue their campaign to disrupt Japan's annual whale hunt More

UN's Ban Urges End to Discrimination Against Ebola Workers

Ban was speaking in Guinea on the second day of a whistle-stop tour aimed at thanking healthcare workers of the countries at the heart of the epidemic More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: unknown from: United States
November 15, 2013 1:43 PM
I saw these at a customers house I was at. They had a lot of these things. They had 37 windows in the house and those bugs kept falling from the windows when I had to open each window.


by: Markt from: Virginia
November 13, 2013 9:56 PM
I hate those bugs. They have been around my house now for over two years when before I had not seen a single one, now I get several in the house throughout the summer. I used to smack them with a fly swatter, but they left a major stink that would take hours to clear out (just squashing one, that is). Now I have to capture them in a paper towel and crush them, then throw them into the trash. It lessens the smell considerably, but they are still a menace and I hate seeing them in the house, but there is no way to keep them out. Invasive, is right...I'm glad its now winter and cold outside, no bugs in the house now, but I dread the coming spring and summer when they come back

In Response

by: Fritz Wilhelm from: Corvallis
November 14, 2013 4:37 PM
Dust Buster. Seriously. These insects can't adapt to being vacuumed up and bagged. I attached a 1" PVC pipe to a shop vac with a brush on the end and took care of a major infestation of Box Elder Bugs many years ago. This will work with any swarming insect that has formed a colony. Drop the bag in water or a container with an introduced high carbon dioxide atmosphere. You can do this by dumping the bag of bugs into a bucket with a glass of water. Put some alka seltzer in the water and close the lid. Killing them is better because they can escape from a paper or plastic bag.

Good luck,
Fritz

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacksi
X
December 19, 2014 12:45 AM
The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Putin Says Russian Economy Will Emerge Stronger

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said his country's sinking economy will not only recover but also become stronger, despite falling oil prices and Western sanctions over Ukraine. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Detained Turkish Journalists Follow Teachings of US-Based Preacher

The Turkish government’s jailing of critical journalists has sparked international condemnation and is being seen as an effort to undermine the followers of an ailing Turkish preacher based in the United States. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.

All About America

AppleAndroid