Brown Marmorated Stink Bugs

BUG BYTES

Several BYGLers reported that they are getting calls and e-mails from concerned homeowners about brown marmorated stink bugs (Halyomorpha halys) showing-up on the outside walls and window screens of homes ... no doubt hatching plans in their bug-brains for a little breaking and entering.  This non-native invasive was first identified in the eastern counties of Pennsylvania in 2001.  Since then, the bug has spread westward across multiple states; it was first reported in Ohio in 2007 in Franklin County.  Although early population densities in Pennsylvania and other states have been almost apocalyptic, recent numbers have been less dramatic.  Thus far, Ohio has experienced the stink bug primarily as localized hot spots occurring in the eastern, central, and southern counties.

The brown marmorated stink bug looks very similar to the native BROWN STINK BUG (Euschistus servus).  Both have shield-shaped bodies, and mottled brownish markings.  Indeed, it has been speculated that the similarity in the appearance and feeding habits between these two bugs may have contributed to the Marmorated stink bug being overlooked in many locations in the U.S.  The two bugs may be differentiated by the black and white banding on the antennae and along the edge of the abdomen that is very apparent on the brown marmorated species.  It also has dark-red eyes.

Brown marmorateds have a wide host range and can become a very serious plant pest, particularly on fruits and vegetables.  Both the nymphs and adults use their piercing mouthparts to puncture and disfigure fruits making them bruise, crack, and ooze juice.  Severe feeding damage can render the fruits unmarketable.  The bugs will also feed on soybeans and woody ornamentals such as rose, maples, and crabapples.  They produce stippling and necrotic spots on the leaves of trees and shrubs.  Because several overlapping generations occur each season, the bugs move from crop to crop damaging multiple types of plants in each area.

The stink bugs may also become a serious nuisance problem to homeowners in the fall.  They collect in large numbers around homes with a goal to spend the winter in a warm structure ... and perhaps watch some OSU football!  Although they lack the ability to bite people, their relatively large size, lumbering gait, and penchant to appear in unexpected places means the last thing they usually hear is "Eeww ... !" just before they're smashed with a rolled-up newspaper causing their primary defense mechanism to waft into the air; they're called "stink bugs" for a reason.

The bugs are too large to squeeze through all but the largest of openings into our homes.  Although they may loiter on window screens, they're too large to fit through the screens.  However, the large opening created by a worn-out exterior door sweep might as well have an "Enter Here Little Stinkers" sign hanging above it.  Leave the garage door up?  Say hello to our little friends!  An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of bugs.  If the bugs do find their way into a home, they should be ushered outdoors before being dispatched, but don't stomp on them unless you want stinky shoes.  A vacuum cleaner is an effective tool for giving the bugs the bums rush.  However, make certain the vacuum cleaner is a "by-pass" type meaning that refuse is not passed through an impeller.  Otherwise, you will create a horrifying stinking bug-blender.