New stink bugs invading Surry County

Darcie DyerStaff Writer

September 27, 2012

If you think you’re the only one who is seeing an influx of stink bugs this fall, you’re not alone.

This portion of North Carolina is beginning to feel the effects of a new insect pest: the Brown Marmorated Stink Bug. The bug is an insect not previously seen on this continent and was apparently accidentally introduced into eastern Pennsylvania in 2001 from Asia.

Since 2001, the Brown Marmorated Stink Bugs have been slowly increasing their range outward from Pennsylvania and have made their large scale arrival in northwestern North Carolina.

“They are spreading from where they were introduced and can build up to a high population, and your area is getting just the beginning of some high population of Brown Marmorated Stink Bugs,” said Jack Bacheler, professor and extension department leader at N.C. State University. “If people think they’re seeing a lot this year, it will probably only increase over the next few years.”

Unlike the several stink bug species that are native to our area, which are kept mostly in check by natural predators and parasites, the Brown Marmorated Stink Bug has no natural enemies here. It also prefers to spend the winter indoors, where it causes no harm to people or houses but can be a serious nuisance, according to N.C. State University researchers.

With this knowledge, researchers are concerned about what effects they may have on crops in addition to just being a nuisance. The Brown Marmorated Stink Bug is known as a serious pest 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.

Researchers at N.C. State University are concerned about the stink bug’s arrival because it could potentially have huge impacts on the state’s agricultural crops.

In states where the insect has become established, such as northern Virginia, eastern West Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, and south central Pennsylvania, some farmers in 2010 lost more than half of their crops. Apples, peaches, tomatoes, peppers, sweet corn, berries and soybeans are all vulnerable. “These are all important crops in western North Carolina, so the economic impact could be huge,” said Jim Walgenbach, a researcher at N.C. State University’s Mountain Horticultural Crops Research & Extension Center, in Mills River.

Even though the bug is considered an agricultural pest, if it comes inside the home, which they like to do, it becomes a home pest too.

Joanna Radford of the Surry County Extension Center said they have received numerous calls this fall from Surry County homeowners who are curious about the number of stink bugs they are seeing.

“The problem is there’s not a lot you can do,” Radford said. “We don’t recommend any spray in the home. It’s safe but not all that effective because you can’t spray your whole house. We recommend vacuuming them up and making sure to empty the bag as soon as possible to avoid an odor.”

Radford said they are normally gone by October, but that will not be the case this year.

“The biggest concern is for vegetable and fruit growers, but obviously it’s unfortunate for home owners too,” said Bacheler.

Reach Darcie Dyer at 835-1513 or ddyer@heartlandpublications.com.