The signs of fall being here are everywhere: beautiful leaf growth, football season, hikes and picnics and unfortunately, stink bugs. This has become an annual staple as these bugs have become the bane of many homeowners all across the United States. The bugs crawl inside homes and other dwellings to escape the declining temperature outdoors. They got the name stink bugs because of the foul odor they emit when these bugs are disturbed, frightened or crushed.
Entomologist Russ Horton explains, “Stink bugs move indoors in late September and early October. They go into hibernation during winter and emerge in early spring.” Horton works with Dallas pest control company HomeTeam Pest Defense and identifies favorite hiding places of stink bugs as attics and inside walls.
The official name of the pest is the brown marmorated stink bug and have been seen in as many as 38 states, up from 33 states last year according to a US Department of Agriculture report. The five new states in the listing include Missouri, Kansas, New Mexico, Texas and Idaho. The stink bugs came to Texas according to reports on the recreational vehicle of a couple who had been out camping in Pennsylvania.
Ground Zero for these pests remain to be in the Mid-Atlantic region of the country, with the worst reports coming in from Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, West Virginia and District of Columbia. The survey of DC area residents reported 59% of the population encountering a problem with these smelly insects compared to the national average pegged at 21%.
According to Jim Fredericks of the National Pest Management Association, “The Mid-Atlantic experienced long periods of sustained hot weather this summer, allowing stink bug populations to grow to much higher levels than we saw in 2011. Now that the weather is cooling off, there are more stink bugs seeking sites to overwinter.” Another NPMA spokesperson, Missy Henriksen added, “Stink bugs do not pose serious property or safety threats to homeowners, but their tendency to invade homes in high numbers can be a nuisance.”
Other scientists agree, such as USDA entomologist Tracy Leskey located in Kerneysville, West Virginia. Leskey observed, a major increase in their populations and the unusually warm stretch of weather has allowed two separate generations of the bugs to breed in just one season and added, “They aren’t picky eaters, as they eat crops such as apples, peaches, corn, peppers, tomatoes, grapes, raspberries and soybeans. Stink bugs do have natural predators, buy they haven’t kept up with the size of the stink bug populations. There are many more stink bugs than predators.”
Since they attacked these prime crops, the USDA undertook a program to reduce or even eradicate these pests but their efforts were thwarted when they returned to America back in the 1990s. One way this can be done again is through the research into a tiny parasitic wasp from Asia that only attacks stink bug eggs. The wasp still remains under quarantine in USDA research labs.