Reports From Our Nationwide Survey About Stink Bugs, Part 1

Reader Contribution by Barbara Pleasant
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In October 2013, MOTHER EARTH NEWS launched the Stink Bug Survey as a citizen science project to gather information about the spread and behavior of the brown marmorated stink bug (Halyomorpha halys). A smelly invasive insect from northern Korea and Japan that was first seen in eastern Pennsylvania in 1998, the brown marmorated stink bug has now been identified in 35 states. These home and garden pests survive winter in houses, buildings and bark crevices in trees. When populations become high, they can devastate many vegetables, fruits and flowers.

Where Are the Stink Bugs Now?

The good news is that survey respondents in the far South, Southwest and far North of the United States are not seeing these distinctive stink bugs with light bands on their antennae in their houses or gardens. Hundreds of respondents from Georgia to Arizona reported that they have never seen brown marmorated stink bugs crawling on window screens, an extremely common sight in the mid-Atlantic states, where stink bug infestations are most severe.

Surprisingly, the area where the brown marmorated stink bugs were first observed, near Allentown, Pa., is not emerging as a current stink bug hot spot according to our survey. 

The highest numbers of people reporting that “stink bugs in my house are out of control and driving me nuts” came from Pittsburgh, Baltimore, and several rural and suburban areas in the mid-Atlantic region. See “Stink Bug Hot Spots” below for lists of the most severely affected counties, by state.

As to how the stink bugs are moving from one place to another, our stink bug survey shows them following the interstate highway system, with long skips between metropolitan areas. Rather than moving steadily westward from tree to bush, our data (and typical marmorated stink bug behavior) suggest that these pests are professional hitchhikers. For example, it would be quite easy for several hundred stink bugs to fly into a truck being loaded in Pittsburgh on a mild October day, and then disperse in Columbus, Ohio, the next day, when the truck warmed up from being parked in the sun. Next thing you know, they are in Ohio kitchens. The I-70 Corridor across Pennsylvania into Ohio is a clear route by which the stink bugs may have spread. A second southwestward trail down I-81 likely scattered the stink bugs down the Blue Ridge to their current southernmost outpost in Chattanooga, Tenn., home to numerous well-equipped truck stops.

The newest remote stink bug outpost is Clackamas County, Ore., where stink bugs probably arrived in a packing crate almost 10 years ago. The westward and limited southward movement of the stink bugs is in keeping with scientists’ predictions that the brown marmorated stink bug could successfully colonize the parts of North America and Europe that fall between the 30th and 50th parallels — from North Carolina and Tennessee in the South to the lower Great Lakes. In this regard, it appears that our survey is on track, but many more responses are needed to learn earth-safe strategies for managing this invasive insect.

Stink Bug Hot Spots

We received numerous reports of stink bug sightings throughout these five states, but the counties listed below show the highest number of serious stink bug problems in houses and buildings (counties with the very worst problems appear in bold). 

Maryland: Baltimore, Carroll, Frederick, Harford, Howard, Montgomery

Ohio: Columbiana, Delaware, Franklin, Hamilton, Mahoning

Pennsylvania: Allegheny, Beaver, Chester , Lancaster, Washington, Westmoreland, York

West Virginia: Berkeley, Hancock, Kanawha, Ohio, Marshall, Morgan

Virginia: Albemarle, Culpeper, Frederick, Loudoun, Madison, Warren

In addition, stink bugs appear to have become well-established in some areas of these states:

In Tennessee, Chattanooga is under siege from brown marmorated stink bugs, with only isolated reports elsewhere in the state.

In North Carolina, healthy stink bug populations are reported for the northeast corner from Mt. Airy to Winston-Salem, with hints of lurking trouble in the heart of the state.

Stink bugs are present in other states from Delaware to Maine and west to Missouri, but our sample sizes for those states are too small to interpret at this time. As more people complete the Stink Bug Survey, we will be monitoring the results for trends and observations. Please take the survey if you have not already done so — as with any citizen science project, we are relying on your input. Thank you in advance!

In our next report, we will explore what we are learning from the survey about stink bug behavior in homes and gardens. 

Photo by Fotolia/epantha

Contributing editor Barbara Pleasant gardens in
southwest Virginia, where she grows vegetables, herbs, fruits, flowers and a few lucky
chickens. Contact Barbara by visiting
her website or
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