| USWorld

Larger text Larger text Smaller text Smaller text | Order Photo Reprints

Stink bug population continues to multiply

Email Newsletters

Click here to sign up for one of our email newsletters.

Daily Photo Galleries

By The Washington Post
Tuesday, Aug. 9, 2011

NEWARK, Del. -- The brown marmorated stink bugs that took a $37 million bite out of the mid-Atlantic's apple crop last year have awakened from winter hibernation, mated and morphed into a possibly larger threat to farmers and homeowners.

These stink bugs are the offspring of the same plague that freaked out Maryland, West Virginia and Pennsylvania homeowners last fall when they crawled into houses to hibernate after the feast.

They started creeping out of hibernation and coupling in late May. Their eggs hatched within three weeks, and their babies, or nymphs, reached adulthood within six weeks. They will possibly return to homes and other warm places when temperatures dip in late September.

Government entomologists say this year's plague seems worse in many areas, and they expressed a particular worry about this invasive species from Asia, which has no natural predators in the United States. The warmth-loving insects appear to be migrating from Eastern Pennsylvania to the sunny Southeast, where the population might explode.

"If they get to Florida, it could be like the atomic bomb going off," said Douglas Luster, research leader for the Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service.

In a desperate search for a solution, the Environmental Protection Agency recently approved limited use of two insecticides to help control the pest, and researchers at a government lab in Delaware are conducting studies to determine whether a non-stinging parasitic wasp that preys on brown marmorated stink bug eggs in China, Japan and South Korea can be introduced here.

The Asian wasp isn't much bigger than a period that ends a sentence, but introducing the insect is risky because it, too, could become invasive and attack native insects that are beneficial to the mid-Atlantic's ecosystem.

But the risk might be worth it, entomologists said. Detected in 33 states and Washington, D.C., the brown marmorated stink bug munches on hundreds of varieties of plants and trees.

It has a taste for fructose, stabbing its mouth -- or proboscis -- into apples, peaches, grapes and other fruit at the start of harvest season. Last year, it ruined nearly half of Pennsylvania's peach crop, worth $15 million, said experts at the Penn State Cooperative Extension.

"The growers who have the most fear are the fruit growers," said Jerry Bruste, secretary and treasurer for the Maryland Vegetable Growers Association. "It will devastate them."

Subscribe today! Click here for our subscription offers.



Show commenting policy

Most-Read Nation

  1. State of emergency declared in South Carolina as hundreds rescued, roads buckle
  2. San Francisco’s last gun store to close
  3. Study points at ancient mega tsunami in boulders off Africa
  4. Deal close on Pacific free trade pact
  5. Key cod-fishing spots in dire shape
  6. Former Federal Reserve Chairman Bernanke: Jail time for Wall Street execs needed
  7. Hot issues put Supreme Court at helm of 2016 race
  8. Faith a comfort in aftermath of Oregon shooting
  9. Priest accused of pointing gun at boy
  10. Utah’s Chaffetz in race for House speaker
  11. Gas leak suspected after Brooklyn blast kills 1; safety measures eyed