2011-03-31 / Front Page

Stink Bug Invasion Predicted

2011 to be the “Year of the Stink Bug”
By Chanin Rotz-Mountz

Some residents are anticipating the arrival of the dime-sized bug armed with its brown, protective shield by taking proactive measures ranging from cleaning window sills with extra-soapy water to sealing minute cracks that serve as an entry way. Meanwhile, a reactive stance is preferred by others who choose to wield their vacuum cleaner as a weapon to rid their homes of the pest now commonly known throughout Pennsylvania as the stink bug.

With warm weather nearly upon us, stink bugs are expected to emerge from their winter hiding in late April through mid-May. Preferring a warmer climate, the pest that only measures up to 1-inch long will immediately take refuge in many fruit and vegetable crops as well as home gardens locally and throughout the Mid-Atlantic region.

According to the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture (PDA), the brown marmorated stink bug hails from Asia but was officially detected in North America during 1998 in Allentown, Pa. In its native land, the bug poses a threat to apples, peaches, beans, soybeans and even ornamental plants.

In Pennsylvania, however, the PDA has reported stink bugs have fed on blackberries and sweet and field corn crops. Losses of approximately 25 percent were recorded in the state’s apple and stone fruit industry alone last year. Homeowners and farmers in adjacent states are telling state officials they are seeing damage to a broader selection of crops, including tomatoes, lima beans and peppers.

“Physical damage includes pitting and scarring, sometimes leading to a mealy texture to the fruit. Damage thereby reduces marketability of fresh produce,” the PDA states in its fact finding.

In fact, during a recent gathering in neighboring Bedford County, Pennsylvani’s Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Michael Pechart announced that 2011 will be the “year of stink bugs.” Predicting the swarms will likely be much worse this year, Pechart stated the stink bug will be the state’s top threat to agriculture this summer.

Dedicating much time to the growing subject, research by the Penn State Cooperative Extension indicates the life history of a stink bug primarly hinges on climate. Here, two to three generations of stink bugs could be born with mating and the depositing of eggs occuring between May through August. Then as colder winter returns, stink bugs take refuge in homes and beneath leaf litter.

Even though the Internet is strewn with different techniques and home remedies on how to protect your home and garden against stink bugs, the best prevention method around the house is sealing cracks around windows, doors, siding and other openings with a high-quality silicone or silicone-latex caulk, the extension office suggests. Furthermore, action should be taken to repair or replace damaged screen doors and windows.

Extension office findings also show exterior insecticides may be applied, but home owners should bear in mind that many such applications break down under the duress of sunlight and may not last beyond several days or a week.

In hopes of better addressing the future erradication of the bugs, approximately $100,000 in funding has been earmarked for research during the current fiscal year. Deputy Secretary Pechart said theories being investigated range from the “neutering” of the pest to altering the bug genetically to eliminate the possibility of hibernation.

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