stink bugIn 1998, Karen Bernhard, a part-time entomologist with the Penn State Cooperative Extension in Lehigh County, Pa., began getting calls from residents who were creeped-out by a foul-smelling, tank-like bug that had decided that the warm confines of a residential home was an ideal place to escape the cold Northeastern winter.

She quickly deduced that it was a species of stink bug, which she figured migrated into the area from another region. Its identity, however, remained a mystery for three more years until Cornell University entomologist E. Richard Hoebke identified the insect as the brown marmorated stink bug, native to Asia.

Since then, stink bugs have morphed from scientific curiosity to a full-on nuisance. The bugs -- which have no natural enemies -- have been wreaking havoc on farmers around the country, decimating fruit and vegetable crops, including corn, soybeans and tomatoes, as well as organic crops without chemical pesticides.

"Serious Pests"

The stink bug gets its name because it emits a vile order through its abdomen as a defense mechanism. People who try to rid themselves of the bugs often need to hold their noses. Squishing them is an especially bad idea.

Penn State's website describes the bug as " a serious pests of fruit, vegetables and farm crops in the Mid-Atlantic region and it is probable that it will become a pest of these commodities in other areas in the United States."

The pests certainly haven't helped the economic recovery. They've reportedly already ruined 40% of some fruit orchards' crops in parts of Pennsylvania, Maryland and West Virginia this year, and experts believe stink bug populations are likely to boom this fall.

From Florida to California

They also may be spreading: Officials in Iowa recently found a dead stink bug in Cedar Rapids, prompting officials to investigate whether a breeding population has been established, according to the Associated Press.

So far, state officials have found only the one stink bug, says Laura Jesse, an extension entomologist at Iowa State University. But, she adds, "We presume from what we have seen out East that we we will have a problem."

Scientists are not sure how the brown marmorated stink bug --- also known as Halyomorpha halys -- got to the U.S., although most figure it was probably via a ship container. When they arrived also is a mystery. The critters have been spotted in 30 states throughout the Northeast, as far south as Florida and even have wound up in California.

Scientists are trying to figure out where they might strike next. "We have a huge list of questions and a very, very short list of answers," Greg Krawczyk, an entomologist with the Penn State University Fruit Research Center in Biglerville, told The Patriot-News of Harrisburg, Pa.

The Scurge of Suburbia

But while the agricultural industry is suffering from these pests, at least one type of business might be benefiting -- exterminators.

Over the past few years, stink bugs have increasingly become a scurge of suburbia, as well as of farmland. And many people are turning to exterminators for help, says Ron Harrison, director of technical services for pest-control company Orkin.

"In 2009 and 2010, we were just innundated" with requests for help, he says, adding that he expects the trend to continue this year. Treatments range from the hundreds to the thousands of dollars depending on the size of the property and the amount of the infestation. Like bed bugs, they pose no health risk to humans.

The best time for homeowners to attack the bugs is in the fall, when they're looking for a warm place to hunker down, Harrison says. By summertime, there's "very little value" in trying to eradicate the stink bugs, which are active breeders, because their populations will have soared, he adds.

Pesticides rarely last more than 10 days. The best way to fight the bugs, experts say, is to seal cracks and cervices where they might crawl through. That doesn't always work, though, because the bugs are formidable foes.

Some help may be on the way. Scientists at the University of Delaware say that a parasitic wasp is showing promise as a stink-bug assassin. Others, including a New Jersey man, have invented their own homemade traps. So far, though, a solution has proven elusive.

Increase your money and finance knowledge from home

Basics Of The Stock Market

Stock Market 101 - everything you need to know but were afraid to ask!

View Course »

Economics 101

Intro to economics. But fun.

View Course »

Add a Comment

*0 / 3000 Character Maximum

88 Comments

Filter by:
Mr Strube

www.stinkbugtrapsonline.com We can help with your stink bug problem!

March 17 2011 at 9:31 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
GOOD MORNING

good morning>>>these stink bug's are bad news..Thay new more harm crops from the farmer's to kill these pest are spray listerene.that is the safe way to kill them with out bug spray...

March 12 2011 at 11:17 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
ccm989

Another pest imported from Asia. First there was the wooly aphid that destroyed the Canadian hemlocks, then the Asian long horn beetle that destroys hardwood trees and now the stink bug is destroying crops. Terrific.

March 12 2011 at 8:31 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
muenft

We have a much worse plague in Mississippi. He is a blood sucker,that saps the strength of youth and the next generation. He is so vile his name scares the animals.
He ain;t from around here...he is from Chicago and he brought a pack of thieves with him but we have hopes of getting shed of this plague in a couple years.

March 10 2011 at 6:03 PM Report abuse -6 rate up rate down Reply
3 replies to muenft's comment
amfnvf

There in Texas and you know who the big breeder was!

March 10 2011 at 5:26 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
tp101056

We have them in Alabama. They stink really bad, but we call them Republicans!

March 10 2011 at 4:41 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
samthetrailerguy

I have them around my house. My home sits on a 6 acre lot and I am gone during the week, when I come home I typically find several in the garage and on occasion in the house. I found one in the laundry room and crushed in a paper towel, big mistake. It stunk up the entire house, nasty little creatures....lol.

March 10 2011 at 4:09 PM Report abuse +5 rate up rate down Reply
tsafa

Ok... so what is their natural enemy in Asia? Lets find out and import that.

March 10 2011 at 2:21 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
muenft

We have a big one in the white house..and it will take years to get rid of him

March 10 2011 at 1:12 PM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply
4 replies to muenft's comment
Thom

Another stinky thing about this article is the spelling -scurge and innundated- two new words I learned today.

March 10 2011 at 12:21 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply