New Potential Pest Raises Big Stink, Upsetting Farmers

New Potential Pest Raises Big Stink, Upsetting Farmers

A new, stinkier stink bug may hitchhike into Missouri this year to destroy crops and upset homeowners.

The brown marmorated stink bug, a pest found in 33 states, mostly to the east and south, will likely be found for the first time this year in Missouri, says Wayne Bailey of the MU Division of Plant Sciences.

The new stink bug destroys fruit, vegetable and field crops.

However, homeowners may be the first to detect the pest, Bailey says. It invades homes as well as injuring crops.

"The stink bug invasion might make ladybug home intrusions seem like nothing," he adds. "Like the ladybug, the stink bug enters homes in large numbers seeking overwintering sites. Stink bugs are winter-hardy. However, they seek warm places to live."

Brown marmorated stink bug

First found in Pennsylvania in 1998, the pest has spread slowly. Starting in the Mid-Atlantic States, stink bugs are now working their way through the Midwest.

The stink bug probably came in cargo from China or a neighboring country, Bailey says. It travels as a stowaway.

The new stink bug has become a problem for truck farms and orchards. As it moved west it gained an appetite for corn and soybeans.

The marmorated stink bug joins local stink bugs that already attack crops. "It is a juice-sucking insect that heads for the developing fruit or pods," explains Bailey. "It can shrivel all of the kernels on an ear of corn. Heaviest crop damage has been on soybeans."

All stink bugs are difficult to control with pesticides, notes Bailey. They don't eat foliage, but pierce the plant to suck juices.

The new pest has proven more resistant to control. However, more insecticides are becoming available for use on the various host crops, Bailey adds.

Brown marmorated stink bug

USDA researchers are working on finding biological controls. "The most likely control will be from wasps that attack the eggs," believes Bailey.

For crop farmers, the new insect will require weekly scouting of fields. As pod feeders, stink bugs can be quite destructive, Bailey adds.
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