The brown marmorated stink bug, a dime-sized Asian invader shaped like shields and armed with an odor has been besieging Maryland farms and homes in recent years which are now become a serious farm pest.
Insect’s populations have “exploded” this year and have verified an unexpected ability to feed during all their developmental stages on a wide variety of crops. They are also crawling into area homes over windowsills, through door crevices and between attic vents in such numbers. Homeowners talk about drowning them in jars of foamy water, suffocating them in plastic bags or even burning them with propane torches. Some people are unwittingly creating another problem in the process: When squashed or irritated, the bugs release the distinctive smell of sweaty feet.
Experts say the invasion is only going to get worse when get used to it. Mike Raupp, a University of Maryland entomologist and extension specialist said “This is the vanguard, I think this is going to be biblical this year.” He also added “You’re going to hear a collective wail in the Washington area, up through Frederick and Allegany counties, like you’ve never heard before. The [bug] populations are just through the ceiling.”
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The change in season as days shorten and nighttime temperatures start to dip, is nature’s call to the brown marmorated stink bug – pest extraordinaire – to leave its summer gorging grounds and seek refuge inside.
To suburban homes, office buildings and hotels, what is happening now is a massive population shift from orchards, cornfields and gardens. What’s happening now is a huge population shift from orchards, cornfields and gardens to suburban homes, office buildings and hotels – the urban U.S. equivalents of rocky outcroppings in the stink bug’s native Asia.
Stink bugs are harmless to people as well as their possessions. They don’t bite and sting. They are not known to transmit disease. Their population has grown very tremendously. They are not only causing vexation to homeowners but also, for the first time, wreaking damage to peaches and apples, soybeans and corn, and even ornamental shrubs and trees.
At once, there is very difficult to kill lots of the bugs. In the United States, they have no natural predators. Pesticides do not work effectively. The insects travel simply – hitching rides on buses and construction material – and adapt to winter in homes. Since they arrived in Allentown, Pa., in 2001, they have flourished, spreading to 29 states, likely stowaways in a shipping container from Asia. They are native to Japan, Korea and China where they are called as “stinky big sisters.” a stink is being caused by them now in the mid-Atlantic region.
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According to experts, homeowners should prevent them from coming indoors by sealing cracks and openings around doors and windows. Residents can vacuum them up, remove the bag and put it in the garbage outside if once the bugs are inside. (Beware: The smell may linger in the vacuum cleaner.) Experts warn against using outdoor pesticides.