The Latest Buzz on Stinkbugs
Posted: August 18, 2011
By Annette MaCoy, Consumer Horticulture Extension Educator
The USDA’s Agricultural Research Service, working with universities such as Penn State, Virginia Tech, Rutgers, and the University of Maryland, has developed a BMSB action plan, with research directed towards determining basic biology and behavior characteristics, developing monitoring tools, and finding effective management methods for both agricultural and urban settings.
As a home gardener, what can you do in the fight against BMSB?
Scouting & Monitoring:
Scout for and destroy eggs and nymphs. One female can lay up to 400 eggs before she dies; the elliptical eggs, laid in clusters of 25 to 35, range from light yellow to greenish white in color and can be found on the underside of leaves from May through August. The eggs hatch in about a week, and the stinkbug goes through five nymphal stages, called “instars,” before the final molt into an adult. These juvenile stages do not look exactly like the adult, with a yellowish-red abdomen and black stripes early on, but all stages have similar antennae – black with white banding. Adults and nymphs feed on at least 250 to 300 different host plants, ornamentals as well as vegetable, forage, and fruit crops, from spring into fall.
Report stinkbug populations at http://stinkbug-info.org. This new online monitoring tool will help researchers gather data about BMSB populations and movement. Fruit and vegetable growers, field crop growers, nursery operators, and homeowners are encouraged to register and report their infestations. The website also serves as a source for BMSB information and management tools.
Physical & Mechanical Controls:
Pheromone lures have been developed, but more for monitoring purposes than control. Plans for light traps using soda bottles can be found on the Internet, but a researcher at the University of Maryland did not find them to be very effective. Row covers over home vegetable garden plants have been suggested as a way to keep BMSB off crops. Drowning the bugs in soapy water as you find them might work for a small infestation.
Unfortunately, for homeowners, no thoroughly effective insecticide is available, and there is concern about the stinkbugs developing resistance to commonly used insecticides. Azidirachtin, insecticidal soap, pyrethrins, and synthetic pyrethroids are some chemicals that may kill or repel stinkbugs. Kaolin clay (Surround) sprayed on fruit may reduce BMSB feeding damage. If you choose to use an insecticide, be sure that the pest and plant are listed on the label, and read and follow the label directions. For BMSB, target nymphs rather than adults; and apply after the eggs have hatched and when nymphs are present on the plant.
Spiders, starlings, chickens, praying mantids, and assassin bugs have been reported to eat BMSB. Unfortunately, these individual predators can’t make a significant dent in BMSB infestations. The USDA is currently evaluating several species of parasitic wasps found in China that lay their eggs in BMSB eggs. If they prove effective and safe to release, they might be available sometime after 2013.
Prepare for this Fall:
Now is the time to start caulking and sealing exterior cracks and crevices around your home, and to replace damaged door and window screens, to prevent BMSB from once again using your home as overwintering quarters.