Friday, March 25, 2011

Stinky Bugs! Have you seen these critters?

Invasive Stink Bugs: Wanted Dead or Alive.

Article By Mike Fargione & Peter Jentsch of Cornell Cooperative Extension Ulster County

The ‘new kid on the block’, the Brown Marmorated Stink Bug (BMSB), Halyomorpha halys (Stål), is a recent addition to the urban/agricultural landscape in the Hudson Valley. It was first observed entering NY homes in 2008. Populations of this species have been steadily on the rise over the past three years, making their presence known primarily in the southern parts of the valley. This insect has been found invading the homes of suburban and Metropolitan New Yorkers living in the 5 boroughs, Nassau, Suffolk, Orange, Westchester, Putnam, Ulster, and Dutchess counties. Many residents are taking notice of them as temperatures rise and insects become more active, making their way out of homes and back into the landscape.

The BMSB does not bite or sting people, pets or livestock. Being a member of the Hemiptera family of insects, it inserts its piercing/sucking mouthparts into plants and feeds on the juices found in stems, leaves and seeds. The insect has shown a wide host range including tomato, pepper, lima bean, soybean, sweet and field corn, apple, pear, peach, berries and some ornamental trees and shrubs. In addition to causing severe damage to farmers’ crops and homeowners’ gardens, the pest has become a residential nuisance as adults fly from near and far to congregate on and in houses during the fall while seeking winter shelter. Reports from the Mid Atlantic region indicate some homeowners have removed thousands of BMSB from their dwellings this winter. Locally, homeowners in the Hudson Valley region also report finding BMSB in their homes this spring with samples being sent to scientists at Cornell’s Hudson Valley Laboratory in Highland, NY. Thus far the laboratory has received over 30 reports and samples from the region, with specimens mostly coming from inside the home, ranging from just a few insects along the window sills to hundreds being observed in closets, attic spaces and stacks of covered firewood.

Since its introduction from Asia into the mid-Atlantic during the mid-1990’s, the BMSB has made its way to the top of the insect ‘most wanted list’. It was first identified in the United States in 2001 in Allentown, Pennsylvania from a specimen sent to Cornell’s Entomologist E. Richard Hoebeck. The pest has spread throughout the mid-Atlantic but was relatively unnoticed except by scientists who study such events. However, over the past two years, BMSB has developed into populations rivaling biblical proportions in some parts of the Mid-Atlantic causing extensive economic injury to vegetable and fruit crops in the region. In 2010, their feeding damage resulted in 20 to 80% crop loss on some farms in West Virginia, Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

The recently established NE-IPM BMSB Working Group met at the Virginia Agricultural Experiment Station in Winchester, VA in November of 2010 to discuss the impact of this insect on the region. The group, which includes fruit and vegetable producers, university researchers and extension agents, USDA entomologists and agrichemical representatives, heard presentations by growers who suffered severe crop injury in 2010. Fruit producers told the group that if they experience successive years of sustained economic loss by this insect pest, that they will be at significant risk of loosing their farm. Given the impacts seen in 2010 in the Mid Atlantic, agricultural producers in the Hudson Valley are preparing themselves for the possible onslaught of this insect into their crops over the next few years.

“We’ve been receiving a few BMSB samples each year since its detection in our area in 2008. This season, however, we are seeing larger numbers in an ever widening range.” said Peter Jentsch, Senior Extension Associate in entomology at Cornell University’s Hudson Valley Laboratory in Highland, NY. Jentsch and his colleagues at Cornell Cooperative Extension have developed a regional working group to develop a laboratory colony, collect regional specimens, verify and document the spread of this invasive species in Eastern NY. Over the past 4 months they have been increasing their efforts to track the Brown Marmorated Stink Bug in the urban environment and will begin monitoring its spread into the agricultural landscape this spring. Intensive monitoring of orchards, vegetable production centers and sweet corn fields using a number of trapping systems will begin in the region during early April. The Hudson Valley Regional Fruit Program website (, CCE extension outreach publications and the Scaffolds Fruit Journal ( will continue to update agricultural producers on the development, spread and damage assessments to agricultural commodities in 2011. Cornell Cooperative Extension in cooperation with the Hudson Valley Laboratory will conduct workshops early in the growing season to assist commercial growers in developing pest management strategies to reduce the damage this insect may cause to their crops.

Dead or Alive:

Anyone who has seen this pest is asked to send a sample to Peter Jentsch, BMSB Project, Cornell Hudson Valley Lab, P.O. Box 727, Highland, N.Y. 12528. The bugs should be placed in a small plastic container, such as a medicine bottle or film canister. A submission form available on the Cornell Cooperative Extension website at ( should be filled out and sent along with the sample so the distribution of the insect can be mapped. Live specimens will be added to the research colony for the Eastern New York Brown Marmorated Stink Bug Project, which began last year.

For more information on this pest, visit the NE IPM Center at .

For more information about Cornell Cooperative Extension of Ulster County’s community programs and events call 845-340-3990 or visit online at and follow us on

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