If you're not yet familiar with the brown marmorated stink bug-you soon will be.
"We know they're coming and we've had some samples brought into our office, but this area will likely be seeing a lot more," said Eric Barrett, educator with The Ohio State University Extension Service in Marietta.
He said research is currently under way to determine how to deal with this Asian pest that, unlike native stink bugs, poses a real threat to fruit trees and vegetables.
Marilyn Ortt, with the Marietta Tree Commission, said native stink bugs are actually beneficial.
"They eat clusters of insect eggs that are found on the underside of leaves on trees but this Asian stink bug is different as it attacks fruit trees and other crops," she said.
An OSU fact sheet on brown marmorated stink bugs said the pests can cause extensive damage to fruit on peach, pear, and apple trees, as well as to soybeans, green beans, and other legumes. Ornamental shrubs and trees are also listed as potential host plants for the insect.
To learn more
For more information about the marmorated stink bug:
- Visit the North Central Pest Management Center Web site at ncipmc.org
- Go to The Ohio State University Extension Web site at ohioline.osu.ed
"All I need is another pest to watch out for," said Ted Lane, fruit grower and owner of Lane's Farm Market on Ohio 676.
Lane said he did not see any stink bug fruit damage during the last growing season, but added that he will be keeping a close eye on this year's crop.
Ortt noted that the brown marmorated stink bug can also become a household nuisance as the insect often seeks shelter inside houses during the winter months.
"My daughter had them in her home in Pennsylvania last year," she said. "She vacuums them up to get rid of the bugs."
Ortt said using pesticides to get rid of the pests indoors is not a good idea, due to the potential impact on humans.
While the bugs do not bite humans or pets, they can be a real nuisance after entering a home.
The OSU report said in extreme cases hundreds of the insects can invade a home and may enter through any small opening, usually around windows.
But it's not advisable to eliminate the insects by crushing them.
"When disturbed, the bugs produce a characteristic pungent acrid odor that many humans find offensive," according to the OSU report which added that vacuum bags should be immediately discarded if they're used to sweep up stink bugs.
The brown marmorated stink bug was first reported in the Allentown, Pa., area in 2001, and has since spread to other states, including New Jersey, Maryland, Delaware, Virginia, West Virginia, the District of Columbia, New York, and Ohio.
According to a Regional Pest Alert from the Northeastern Integrated Pest Management Center (NIPMC), the Asian insect may have been in the U.S. as early as 1996.
NIPMC is a U.S. Department of Agriculture funded center tasked with providing reliable information and research to assist policy makers and others in making decisions related to pest management.
Entomologist Susan Ratcliffe, director of the North Central Integrated Pest Management Center at the University of Illinois, said research is being done to determine the best way to manage the invasive stink bug.
"It's difficult to manage using traditional techniques, so we're doing extensive research at this time," she said. "The extent of the bug's impact is not fully understood at this time.
"But the first dramatic display of the potential economic impact occurred in 2010," Ratcliffe added. "I understand the apple crop in one northeastern area was not even able to be sold for cider."
According to a report from the U.S. Apple Association, Mid Atlantic apple growers lost an estimated $37 million last year from damage by the brown marmorated stink bug.
She said the insect's effect during one growing season in one particular area would not be a suitable measurement of its overall impact.
"But it will take a number of years for us to fully understand," Ratcliffe said.
In the meantime, some researchers have considered the possibility of introducing a brown marmorated stink bug-eating Asian wasp into infested areas as a means of biological control.
Ratcliffe said she was not totally familiar with that concept but urged caution.
"There have been some very successful introductions of biological controls on pests but you have to be very cautious," she said.
The pest management center always recommends that growers first monitor their crop for invasive species, then weigh the economic impact of treatment before determining the least risky option to eliminate the pest.
To prevent stink bugs from entering homes, "You don't want to crush them -there's a reason they're called 'stink bugs,'" Ratcliffe said.
She suggested sealing all cracks and crevices around windows and throughout the house to keep the bugs out when they try to enter buildings during the fall.
But Ortt said the best preventive method would be to keep invasive pests out of the country altogether.
"These bugs came over in goods that were shipped into this country. The emerald ash borer and other invasive species have also arrived through shipping ports," she said. "This is why basic research on how to control these pests before they arrive is so important, but that's not being done."
She said the U.S. needs to do a better job of inspecting imported goods for insects and plants that may have hitched a ride into the country aboard ships or planes.