Stink Bug Worries Spread Across Nation

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Michael Raupp, an Entomology professor at the University of Maryland, discusses stink bugs. Raupp has a "bug of the week" page: click here. (Published Thursday, Sep 23, 2010)

    The brown marmorated stink bug isn't just being a pest by creeping around your home.

    It is also causing millions of dollars in damages to crops in the mid-Atlantic region.

    And -- gulp -- it may be just getting started.

    The bug is native to Asia. It began appearing in mid-Atlantic orchards in 2003. It's now been spotted in 33 states, including every one east of the Mississippi River and as far west as California.

    The U.S. Apple Association says its industry appears hit hardest, with $37 million in damage to growers in Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia.

    The insect has no domestic predators and researchers say insecticides can reduce but not eliminate the problem.

    The bug, named for the foul smell it gives off when crushed, will feed on nearly anything, including cherries, tomatoes, grapes, lima beans, soybeans, green peppers, apples and peaches.

    The bugs were first noticed in eastern Pennsylvania in the mid-1990's.

    In USDA testing, when stink bugs were sprayed with insecticide, the majority of test sample appeared to die. However, pesticides only induced a comatose, "moribund" state. In lab trials, as much as 50 percent of the test samples would be alive and active after seven days.

    "Normally when you spray an insecticide, dead is dead," Bryan S. Butler, a fruit educator with the University of Maryland Extension, told the Carroll County Times. "Not this time."

    There is hope on the way. Agriculture Department researchers have been looking at a wasp that lays its eggs inside stink bug eggs, killing the insects. The wasps are smaller than a match head.