There's a new pest on the block and it's raising quite a stink. Brown marmorated stink bugs are pests that were first found in this country in the late 1990s, presumably having hitched a ride in from Asia on shipping materials. Since then they have steadily expanded their range and are now a major pest in the Mid-Atlantic states and are working their way into many other parts of the country. These shield-shaped brown bugs are about the size of a dime and have alternating dark and light bands along their sides and on their antennae. (″Marmorated″ means ″mottled,″ by the way.) Females lay elliptical, light green eggs in clusters on the undersides of leaves, and in most areas these bugs are thought to have several generations per year. The newly hatched nymphs, or immature insects, are mottled with black and red.
Currently found in at least 36 states, these garden and agricultural pests attack a wide range of crops, including apples, apricots, cherries, grapes, peaches, peppers, tomatoes, and soybeans. They cause pitting and scarring of fruits, making them unfit for fresh and sometimes processed use, and their feeding can create entryways for disease. Researchers are still working to develop good control strategies for these pests on crops. Check with your local Cooperative Extension Service for the most current advice for your area.
Even non-gardeners may find themselves troubled by theses bugs, as brown marmorated stink bugs congregate in large numbers on and sometimes inside of buildings in the fall, looking for a sheltered spot to spend the winter. They don't bite or sting, but true to their name, they can emit a foul smell when swept up or crushed. Sealing up cracks and crevices with caulking and screening is the best strategy for keeping these bugs out. Vacuuming them up and disposing of the vacuum bag is the best option for dealing with home invaders that make it inside.