Hi everyone! If you are like me, you are ready for fall and some cool, crisp weather! BUT, if you live in the Mid-Atlantic region of the U.S. you are now experiencing "The Invasion of the Brown Marmorated Stink Bug (Halyomorpha halys) and are not too happy about it! This little critter is inundating homes and businesses in the area and causing all kinds of problems. They apparently look for warm spots, as the weather gets cooler, to spend the winter and are so numerous that there are several websites and blogs that have sprung up dedicated to helping people get rid of this pest! There is a small problem, though! There is a 'good bug' out there that can be confused with the stink bug. This 'good bug' is the Spined Soldier Bug (Podisus maculiventris) and is a predator of other insects that eat our plants! The differences between the two are explained in the picture of the Brown Marmorated Stink Bug (Halyomorpha halys). Take a look and compare the two before squashing them! The most distinctive difference (besides the nasty smell) is that the stink bug has rounded 'shoulders' and the soldier bug has pointed 'shoulders'. This is a very distinctive difference and easy to see. OK - some of us might need a magnifying glass!
The differences between the Spined Soldier Bug and the Brown Marmorated Stink Bug.
The Brown Marmorated Stink Bug was not known in the U.S. until 2001 and was first found in shipping containers from Asia. They were first identified in Allentown, PA but it is possible that they have been in the country since the late '90s. They are now found as far south as Virginia and will, I am sure, continue their spread throughout the country. Stink bugs are native to Asia and are considered invasive in the United States. They are predators on other insects in their own environment and are controlled by native Asian predators, but there are no known biological predators native to the United States. They usually attack fruit trees, vegetables, and ornamental trees and shrubs. These bugs don't actually hurt humans or animals but they can be very annoying! They have a nasty habit of exuding a disgusting 'stink' whenever they are crushed or defending themselves. In extreme cases, stink bugs can invade your home or business and there are several websites out there that tell you how to protect your home from these pests by closing up your home with tape and caulk! Our native birds, and even the exotic birds like starlings, won't eat them because they taste nasty! Pesticides are one way that websites and pesticide companies are telling you to control stink bugs and they recommend certain pyrethroids, including deltamethrin, lambda-cyhalothrin, and cyfluthrin. Yes, these are "organic" pesticides because they are from the chrysanthemum plant BUT DO NOT BE FOOLED by the word "organic"! These are deadly neurotoxins and should be sprayed by professionals! Yes, an "organic" pesticide that is lethal! Just because it is "organic" - from a plant - does not mean it is safe! On the contrary, some of the most lethal pesticides are from plants and why not - this is how a plant protects itself from insects and other chewing animals! The important word here is ANIMAL - just like humans - insects are animals and we all, as animals, share some of the most basic DNA, so if it can hurt an insect - it is possible that it can hurt you!
Did you also notice that at the beginning of this post I said that they 'apparently' look for warm spots and that can be in your home? That they are 'apparently' inundating homes? Why 'apparently? Because I have not had the same problem as most other people with this little bug! Here on the "Farm" we have found one or two in the house and none have attacked the plants in my yard! Why? Well, of course these little bugs will attack some natives, like hollies, tomato fruits, and redbuds but the majority of the things they attack are from Asia! Soybeans, apple trees, pear trees, butterfly bushes, lilacs and other exotic ornamentals. Just another reason to go native!
One last thing, if you don't live in the Mid-Atlantic area of the United States but you see stink bugs - contact your local extension agent!
So until next time - try to keep the stink bugs out of your house!