Seen Any Brown Marmorated Stink Bugs Lately?


Stink bugFor the past few months, I’ve been sharing space in my office with an exotic insect from China, the brown marmorated stink bug (Halyomorpha halys). Since arriving in Pennsylvania in 1996, this species has invaded gardens and orchards in 26 states, but until now it has made its biggest headlines by seeking shelter inside homes. Like Asian ladybeetles, marmorated stink bugs come into houses and barns on warm days in late fall. This behavior has become extreme in Maryland, where marmorated stink bugs swarmed homes by the thousands in fall 2010.

Scientists have been working to find control strategies since 2004, when USDA entomologist Jeffrey Aldrich began tracking populations and looking for a pheromone that could be used in an effective trap. Significant progress has been made, and a predatory wasp has been found that parasitizes marmorated stink bug eggs. “The good news is that with continued government and state support, there’s a great chance we’ll be able to finish quarantine-based research and get federal clearance to release the foreign parasitoids in outdoor trials,” says Amanda Koppel, stink bug expert at Virginia Tech University.

Meanwhile, the marmorated stink bug is an insect out of control, with some experts warning of an agricultural threat of “biblical proportions” should the marmorated stink bug gain a foothold in North America’s prime soybean-growing areas. The marmorated stink bug naturally thrives in urban and suburban areas because it can use buildings for overwintering and landscape plants for food. Two favorites include the invasive princess tree (Pawlonia) and butterfly bush (Buddleia). 

Identifying the Enemy 

“Marmorated” means having a marbled or streaked appearance, and alternate light and dark bands on this mottled brown shield bug’s antennae clearly identify it as the invasive species. The spotted antennae are easy to see with a 5X magnifying glass. Like other stink bugs, the marmorated stink bug feeds by puncturing plant tissues with its sharp feeding tube, and sucking plant juices, so insecticide sprays are generally ineffective. Marmorated stink bugs can fly about and feed on an unusually broad range of host plants (they love viburnums, beans and most fruits). Their feeding habits may shift as the season progresses. Last year, late-season nectarines, peaches and tomatoes were hard hit in the mid-Atlantic region, where marmorated stink bugs are fast displacing native species.

Protecting Your Garden 

Mid-Atlantic gardeners should be prepared to protect peppers and late-season tomatoes with high tunnels or row covers. If you have pears or Asian pears, intense hand picking (by shaking the bugs down into a tarp) may be the best way to limit damage to fruit.

Trapping these guys is of tremendous interest, though yellow sticky traps that attract marmorated stink bugs also claim beneficial insects. One passive trap that could work consists of an open pipe, painted yellow, set in the soil upright among plants. Theoretically, stink bugs fall in the top of the pipe and can’t get out.

Kazoo Kate
1/9/2018 10:20:48 AM

These infested my pole beans last summer, 2017, sucking the juices from the pods making them tough, dry, and inedible. Any suggestions on how to protect tall pole beans from this pest?

Kazoo Kate
1/9/2018 10:20:45 AM

My pole beans became infested with the stink bugs for the first time in the late summer of 2017. They would suck the juice out of the pods, leaving them tough and inedible. Any suggestions on how to keep them off pole beans?

9/4/2013 11:34:25 AM

A picture of the larvae of this creep needs to be posted. Six years ago in the area around Valley Forge, PA, I had a great 'crop' of the plant 'cleome'. Mid summer, as they were really starting to bloom, I noticed a pretty little larvae crawling along...thought some new kind of 'bug'. Then, I noticed more......then THOUSANDS plus adults. The number was overwhelming. I pulled up all my cleome, which I loved, put into trash bags and put at curb. The invasion was horrific and the plants were being destroyed. So post a photo of the larvae/nymph, whatever so people can start immediate erradication. I was 'fascinated' for too long.

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