Brown marmorated stink bug making an unpleasant appearance in Ohio

Some times entomology stinks. Photo provided by OSU Extension.

A bug named for its stench and marbled, streaky appearance has made its way to Ohio, potentially becoming a serious pest — the brown marmorated stink bug. This odiferous pest is moving eastward from the Atlantic Coast into the eastern Corn Belt becoming a pest in Ohio on soybeans and other crops, but can be a more serious problem in fruit crops, ornamental plants and irritated homeowners.
“To add insult to injury, these stink bugs then tend to move into people’s homes in late fall looking for overwintering sites in numbers reaching the hundreds and even thousands. And as the name implies, the insect can release a characteristic pungent acid odor that many people find offensive; in other words, these insects can ‘stink!’” wrote Ron Hammond, Andy Michel and Bruce Eisley, Ohio State University Extension entomologists in a recent CORN Newsletter. “We received a number of reports of homes in Ohio being invaded by this insect. Although not in the 1,000s or even 100s, they nevertheless were easily found. In discussing this with colleagues from the east, some mentioned that high, damaging populations often occur about two years after they are first discovered in an area. Thus, we feel it is imperative to determine where in the state this stink bug is currently being found; the easiest way to accomplish this is to hear from home owners that are finding them in their homes.”
The bug is a native of Japan, Korea and China and was first reported in the United States in Pennsylvania in 1998. It also has been found in other eastern states, including Virginia, Maryland and New Jersey. The pest has also been causing problems in Indiana.
“This insect is another example of exotic plant pests that are introduced through international trade and impacts our agriculture, natural resources and the public,” said Phil Marshall, state entomologist with the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, Division of Entomology and Plant Pathology.
Quarantine similar to what has been used to manage the emerald ash borer and other exotic pests is not an effective option for the stink bug, Marshall said. The bugs will not cause damage while in a home but will be annoying and smell bad when disturbed, said Ricky Foster, a Purdue University professor and Extension entomologist who specializes in pest management. The more important concern for farmers, Foster said, is that the bug can become a serious crop pest. It uses its sucking mouthparts to feed on a variety of plants, including most fruit crops, some vegetables, corn, soybeans and various ornamental plants.
The bug in its adult stage has the shape of a shield common to most stink bugs. It grows to 5/8 of an inch long and 3/8 inch wide. The upper body is mottled brown and gray with alternating light and dark bands on the edges of the abdomen. Its antennae have two light bands on the last two segments. It lays barrel-shaped, green eggs in clusters. Nymphs are oval with yellow, brown, black and red colors.
Experiences in other parts of the country indicate that the brown marmorated stink bug first will be a pest in homes for a few years before it becomes a crop pest, Foster said. As with the Asian lady beetle, he said homeowners should take steps that include caulking around windows and repairing screens to prevent invasion.
“Once the stink bugs are inside, they can be vacuumed up and disposed of,” he said. “Homeowners should discard their vacuum cleaner bag immediately after use because the stink bugs will indeed stink when collected by the vacuum cleaner.”
If homeowners use insecticides to keep the bug out, Foster advised using them on the exterior of homes, not indoors.
The bug feeding on fruit crops causes small spots of dead tissue that can result in misshapen fruit. Its feeding on apples can result in pithy tissue underneath the feeding wound that may turn brown. Feeding later in the season can result in water-soaked lesions on the fruit.
The pest also can feed on fruiting vegetables such as tomatoes and peppers, beans pods and corn kernels. The most effective insecticides are the pyrethroids such as bifenthrin, cyhalothrin, cyfluthrin and cypermethrin, Foster said. Most fruit crop growers prefer to avoid using these insecticides because they kill natural enemies that keep pests such as mites under control.
Foster said one concern is that if the brown marmorated stink bug becomes a serious pest problem, relying on the pyrethroid insecticides for control will lead to additional pest problems, requiring more pesticide applications. That is because the insecticides will kill some natural enemies but not pest mites, which then will multiply rapidly.
“They kill the good guys but not the bad guys,” Foster said.
If you find any of these stink bug, please contact your nearest County Extension educator or contact us at hammond.5@osu.edu.
Extension entomologists would like you to either send the insects sent to us, or at least a good picture, preferable with a digital camera and not a cell phone, which can be used for proper identification. Further information on the brown marmorated stink bug is available in a fact sheet written by Celeste Welty and others available at http://entomology.osu.edu/ag/images/Marmorated_Stink_Bug.pdf.

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