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

    Video Rubio Looks to Surge in New Hampshire

    Republican presidential candidate has moved into second place in several recent surveys and appears to be gaining ground on longtime frontrunner Donald Trump

    UN Calls for Global Ban on Female Genital Mutilation

    Recent UNICEF report finds at least 200 million girls and women alive today have undergone female genital mutilation in 30 countries

    UN Pilots New Peace Approach in CAR

    Approach launched in northern town of Kaga Bandoro, where former combatants of mainly Muslim Seleka armed group and Christian and animist anti-Balaka movement are being paid to do community work

    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.
    German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibiti
    X
    Hamada Elsaram
    February 05, 2016 4:30 PM
    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video Former Drug CEO Martin Shkreli Angers US Lawmakers

    A former U.S. pharmaceutical business executive has angered lawmakers by refusing to explain why he raised the price of a life-saving pill by 5,000 percent. Martin Shkreli was removed from a congressional hearing on Thursday after citing his Fifth Amendment right to stay silent. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Super Bowl TV Commercials are Super Business for Advertisers

    The Super Bowl, the championship clash between the two top teams in American Football, is the most-watched sporting event of the year, and advertisers are lining up and paying big bucks to get their commercials on the air. In fact, the TV commercials during the Super Bowl have become one of the most anticipated and popular features of the event. VOA's Brian Allen has a sneak peek of what you can expect to see when the big game goes to commercial break, and the real entertainment begins.
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.
    Video

    Video Microcephaly's Connection to Zika: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

    The Zika virus rarely causes problems for the people who get it, but it seems to be having a devastating impact on babies whose mothers are infected with Zika. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
    Video

    Video Solar Innovation Provides Cheap, Clean Energy to Kenya Residents

    In Kenya, a company called M-Kopa Solar is providing clean energy to more than 300,000 homes across East Africa by allowing customers to "pay-as-you-go" via their cell phones. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from Kangemi, customers pay a small deposit for a solar unit and then pay less than a dollar a day to get clean energy to light up their homes or businesses.
    Video

    Video Stunning Artworks Attract Record Crowds, Thanks to Social Media

    A new exhibit at the oldest art museum in America is shattering attendance records. Thousands of visitors are lining up to see nine giant works of art that have gotten a much-deserved shot of viral marketing. The 150-year-old Smithsonian American Art Museum has never had a response quite like this. VOA's Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Apprenticeships Put Americans on Path Back to Work

    Trying to get more people into the U.S. workforce, the Obama administration last year announced $175 million in grants towards apprenticeship programs. VOA White House correspondent Aru Pande went inside one training center outside of Washington that has gained national recognition for helping put people on the path to employment.
    Video

    Video New Material May Reduce Concussion Effects

    As the 2016 National Football League season reaches its summit at the Super Bowl this coming Sunday (2/7), scientists are trying to learn how to more effectively protect football players from dangerous and damaging concussions. Researchers at Cardiff and Cambridge Universities say their origami-based material may solve the problem. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Saudi Arabian Women's Sports Chip Away at Stereotypes

    Saudi Arabian female athletes say that sports are on the front line of busting traditions that quash women’s voices, both locally and internationally. In their hometown of Jeddah, a group of basketball players say that by connecting sports to health issues, they are encouraging women and girls to get out of their homes and participate in public life. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.
    Video

    Video A Year Later, Fortunes Mixed for Syrians Forging New Lives in Berlin

    In April of last year, VOA followed the progress of six young Syrian refugees -- four brothers and their two friends -- as they made their way from Libya to Italy by boat, and eventually to Germany. Reporter Henry Ridgwell caught up with the refugees again in Berlin, as they struggle to forge new lives amid the turmoil of Europe's refugee crisis.
    Video

    Video Zika Virus May be Hard to Stop

    With the Zika virus spreading rapidly, the World Health Organization Monday declared Zika a global health emergency. As Alberto Pimienta reports, for many governments and experts, the worst is yet to come.