Updated: Will 2013 be the year of the stink bug?

Published online: Feb 01, 2013

The buzz around stink bugs has been growing and seems to have reached an all time high for the little bugs.

Farmers across the nation are being warned that stink bug populations could explode in 2013 after a slight reprieve in 2012. Farms and households along the East Coast are expected to take the brunt of the population explosion.

In an interview on National Public Radio, Tracy Leskey, a U.S. Department of Agriculture's Research Service entomologist, said stink bugs are expected to make a big comeback in 2013.

"We did find that local BMSB populations were six times larger going itno overwintering sites in the Fall 2012 compared with Fall 2011," Leskey said. "What we don't know is what that means regarding populations for 2013. It depends on how well they survive the winter and the many factors that can potentially infuence on population density."

Leskey said growers need to be cautious during early spring as bugs exit overwintering sites. There may be larger numbers than were present in the spring of 2012.

USDA announced this month that it listed the brown marmorated stink bug as its top "invasive insect of interest." USDA scientists are working quickly to find ways to control the stink bug by searching its genetic information. Stink bugs have been detected in 39 states and it attacks a wide variety of specialty and row crops.

Until more sophisticated forms of control are developed, specialized traps and pheromones are the most common ways of trapping or capturing the annoying pest. Researchers are considering whether to introduce the bugs' natural parasites from China. In the meantime, U.S. farmers can only use pheromone traps and some EPA approved pesticides for emergencies.

Part of the problem with stink bugs is that they can appear out of nowhere. However, like other invasive pests, their populations are tied to the weather. In 2011, juvenile stink bugs had an unexplained high mortality rate, which translated into fewer adult bugs the following spring. In September 2012, farmers and homeowners in the East were caught off guard when high numbers of the pest swarmed, looking for places to hibernate. Numbers were high in the fall because the early spring in 2012 led to two generations of stink bugs getting established.

The interest in quelling stink bugs has grown so rapidly, a new web site has been established to better understand the pest and ways to control it. The site can be found at http://www.stopbmsb.org/.

Source: agprofessional.com