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Unusually cold winter, spring reduces population of Western Pa. stink bugs

| Saturday, Aug. 23, 2014, 12:01 a.m.
The brown marmorated stink bug was first discovered in Allentown in 1998.
Steph Chambers | Tribune-Review
Katie Miller of Latrobe Dairy Queen serves a banana split during the yellow tie gala on Friday, Aug. 22, 2014, as part of The Great American Banana Split Celebration in Latrobe, the official birthplace of the banana split.

Western Pennsylvania residents will most likely get a reprieve from stink bugs this year, but it doesn't mean they will be gone forever, experts say.

“The past few seasons' weather, which was unusually cold, with much lower temperatures and colder nights, left us with conditions that are not very favorable for the brown marmorated stink bugs,” said Greg Krawczyk, a fruit entomologist for Penn State Extension.

Adam Witt, vice president of Witt, a Pittsburgh-based extermination company, agreed, saying the company has received fewer calls for stink bug extermination this year.

“There's definitely a substantial decrease this year,” Witt said. “We've seen them gradually decline over the years. I think Mother Nature, with the cold weather, definitely played a part in that.”

Both Witt and Krawczyk explained that stink bugs' life cycles rely on the weather. When it's colder out, they grow at a slower rate, and are unable to reach adulthood as quickly. Thanks to a colder winter and spring this year, the stink bugs are growing slower and reproducing less.

“This year, we did see a slow start and a slow season, but they're out there,” said Tracy Leskey, a research entomologist for the U.S. Department of Agriculture. She added that in one season, generally two generations of stink bugs grow from eggs to maturity between spring and fall, but this year, only one generation is expected to mature.

Despite this, and the fact that Western Pennsylvanians have reported seeing fewer stink bugs so far this year, it's too early to say that they won't be a big nuisance, Leskey said.

“It's really too early to say what to expect in September and October,” Krawczyk said. “The stink bugs are on the fruit, vegetables and trees right now. They are not coming to houses and won't be coming to houses for another month.”

Krawczyk said that while he expects the numbers of stink bugs to be much lower this year than in 2010 and 2013, there will be plenty to go around.

Whether or not this holds true, though, will be determined through the Great Stink Bug Count, an experiment put on by Leskey's office that asks homeowners to count the number of stink bugs on the sides of their homes for one month.

This count, Leskey said, will not only determine whether population levels have decreased, but could also point to trends, such as whether stink bugs flock to specific colors or materials when it comes to housing.

In the meantime, Leskey said, homeowners can prevent stink bugs from entering their houses by using screens on end vents and around air conditioners.

“If there's an obvious gap, that's where the bugs can get in,” Leskey said. “If you can block those, they are a good first line of defense for homeowners.”

To participate in the Great Stink Bug Count, visit www.stopbmsb.org/2014-count.

Alicia McElhaney is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-836-6220 or amcelhaney@tribweb.com.

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