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Penn State Stink Bug Monitoring Tool Expands Nationwide

Posted: September 13, 2011

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Brown marmorated stink bugs (BMSB) have become a major threat to fruit orchards and vegetable and grain fields across the country, but a newly expanding web monitoring tool developed by Penn State researchers will help growers report their stink bugs problems and eventually help drive pest management decisions.

BMSB feeds on many different crops and has few effective natural enemies in the United States, allowing its populations to grow unchecked. In apples alone, BMSB caused an estimated $37 million in crop losses in the mid-Atlantic region in 2010. BMSB are native to Asia and were first detected in Pennsylvania in the late 1990s. During the winter BSMB looks for a warm place to live, many times invading private homes, becoming a general nuisance and causing a foul odor.

According to John Tooker, assistant professor of entomology in the College of Agricultural Sciences, after emerging from overwintering sites, BMSB move onto ornamental plants, and into orchard, vegetable, and grain crops. “This summer in southern Pennsylvania we have seen large populations in corn and soybean fields, and the bugs continue to trouble fruit and vegetable growers,” he said. “In grain crops infestations of the bugs have been spotty, but local populations can be pretty high, like twenty bugs on a single corn plant, and there is a concern that as autumn approaches and field crops senesce stink bugs will move into fruit crops like apples, which are harvested later in the year.”

The free web-based tool, developed in collaboration with the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, can be found at http://stinkbug-info.org/ online. The goal of the tool is to give growers more information about the population dynamics of the brown marmorated stink bug. “The tool will also allow people to report where they see large populations, and the hope is that we can use this information as an early warning system to alert growers of the large populations,” Tooker explained. 

Tooker developed the tool with Douglas Miller, associate professor of geography and director of the Center for Environmental Informatics in the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences. Miller and his team have been able to expand the capabilities of the tool nationwide, so fruit and vegetable growers, field-crop growers, nursery operators and homeowners in the 48 contiguous states can report the location and size of infestations and the estimated dollar value of damages, if any, caused by the pest. The website also acts as a portal for information about the stink bug, including photos, a description and management tips for homeowners.

“In the short term, data collected could provide an early warning for growers about where stink-bug populations are occurring so they can take appropriate action to protect their crops,” said Tooker. "In the long term, we hope to learn more about how the pest spreads and moves between crops, with an eye toward developing better management strategies."

To report an infestation, visitors to the site first register to receive a user name and password. They then will be able to enter information about their infestation, including the county and municipality, date and the number of stink bugs observed per plant or in and around a home. Growers also can report infestations in the two previous seasons to document economic loss.

For more information on BMSB, see the Northeastern IPM Center Regional Pest Alert on BMSB at , or Penn State’s Department of Entomology’s fact sheet.
The Pennsylvania IPM program is a collaboration between the Pennsylvania State University and the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture aimed at promoting integrated pest management in both agricultural and urban settings. For more information, contact the program at 814-865-2839, or go to http://www.paipm.org.