There’s a pest invading South Carolina which could become a problem for farmers if it is not controlled.
The brown marmorated stink bug is rated as “agricultural and nuisance problems” by a group of researchers tracking the spread of the insect. It has been making its way south and west from mid-Atlantic states where it rates “severe agricultural and nuisance problems reported.” Click here to see an interactive map.
“It’s going to be an ever-changing threat,” Clemson and University of Georgia entomologist Brett Blaauw, said. “It’s a relatively new introduction into South Carolina. It’s slowly moving from its introductory point up in Pennsylvania, moving southward.”
Blaauw came to the South after studying the brown marmorated stink bug in New Jersey.
“I can work with the growers to make sure that they’re on top of this before it gets too bad,” he said. “I have this experience I hope I can help them fend off this major pest. It has made it across the border up into the Piedmont region of South Carolina and it has the potential to cause a problem for many types of crops, particularly peaches.”
He said the bug has a more “voracious” appetite than others of its size. They are also easily able to move from one crop to another.
But the few state farmers who have reported the brown marmorated stink bug are able to control it so far with insecticides. There are several stinkbug species in the Southeast, but the brown marmorated version is of most concern.
“We’ve actually set up some monitoring traps there and last year, impressively, we caught more than 3,000 adults of these brown marmorated stink bugs at this one grower’s farm,” Blaauw said. “And so he is concerned, and rightfully so. That’s a lot of stink bugs.”
“There are only a couple growers that are having issues with it (in SC) and they, right now, are staying on top of their management programs,” Blaauw said. “We’re not seeing anything major — at least in the fruit tree industry so I think that’s a good sign.”
Beyond being a stinky nuisance, the stink bugs will damage crops.
“They take this piercing, sucking mouth part and they’ll stick it into the fruit and basically use it as a straw,” Blaauw said. “They release an enzyme in their saliva that breaks down the fruit tissue and then they’re able to suck it back up and feed off it.”
Feeding stink bugs can damage corn, apples, tomatoes, peaches, soybeans, peppers, cherries, berries, peas, pears, almonds and cotton. Universities and extensions nationwide have teamed up to track the brown marmorated stink bug and offer multi-state research in pest control. Click here for more information.
Not only are they a problem for farmers, the stink bugs can be a nuisance in your home. If you crush it, it emits a heavy scent, hence the name “stinkbug.” Because if this, they have no common predators and not enough natural enemies.
“I see them all the time out in the wild,” Blaauw said. “But it is a major nuisance when they get inside because once you approach them or try to shoo them off outside or even catch them, they will stink.”
But one stinkbug enemy could be the key to its control: a wasp that lays its eggs in stinkbug eggs. As the wasp embryo grows, it feeds on the stinkbug larvae, killing it.