Scientists Wage War on Stink Bugs

If all goes according to plan, you'll be seeing less of those pesky, brown pests hanging out in your home.


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If your first reaction to this photo was "ew," we're sorry.

Miyuki Satake/Fotolia

When it comes to stink bugs in the Hudson Valley, the struggle is real. Besides the fact that spotting one of those tiny, brown home invaders hanging out in the corner of your ceiling makes your hair stand on end, it turns out they’re quite the agricultural nightmare.

But scientists nation-wide are getting ready to go on the defensive. The plan is to introduce a natural predator, the Samurai wasp, that likes to lay its eggs inside the eggs of stink bugs. These wasps prefer to choose stink bug eggs as a host, a discovery made in Marlborough last year by Peter Jentsch, director of the Hudson Valley Research Laboratory in Highland, and his colleges.  

If all goes well, New Yorkers, and residents of as many as eight other states, could see less of the brown pests infesting their homes.

According to an invasive species mapping system developed at the University of Georgia, Ulster, Dutchess, and Orange counties have some of the highest reported numbers of “brown marmorated stink bugs” in New York. The stink bug is a severely invasive pest (not that we didn’t already think that) when it comes to agriculture because it feeds on a number of different crops, including apples, peaches, berries, beans, and cotton, according to Orkin. Mid-Atlantic apple growers blamed it for an 18 percent crop loss in 2010 costing $37 million, Lohud reports.  

Stink bugs feed by inserting their mouths into the skin of fruits or the stems of plants and injecting saliva, after which they can suck the digested material out like a smoothie.

The number of parasitic infestations of stink bug eggs by the Samurai wasps has been too infrequent to slow the stink bug’s spread, but this year scientists will infest stink bug eggs in a laboratory and release the birthed wasps where a high population of stink bugs has been reported. Wasps are a less worrisome method of population control compared to pesticides, and the effort has already been greenlighted in Oregon, and is expected to be approved in New York soon, Jentsch tells Lohud. Jentsch hopes to be begin distributing the wasp-infested eggs this summer.

The scientists behind this effort need help from you, the public. A website has been created for people to report sightings of brown marmorated stink bugs, so if you’re tired of catching these little guys in your home, head to www.eddmaps.org/bmsb/report to speak up.

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