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Growers Encouraged to Use New Online Stink Bug Monitoring Tool

Posted: May 31, 2011

Faced with uncertainty about the future of brown marmorated stink bug populations and their impact on crop production, researchers at Penn State recently launched a stink bug mapping tool in collaboration with the PA Department of Agriculture. John Tooker, assistant professor of entomology in the College of Agricultural Sciences 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. The tool, housed at http://stinkbug-info.org, will help the researchers gather widespread data to study brown marmorated stink bug (BMSB) population dynamics. The BMSB is an invasive pest discovered in Pennsylvania in the late 1990’s. Although native stink bug species exist in the state, they have largely had a minimal impact on crop production. However, population explosions of the BMSB in southern Pennsylvania in 2010 caught many growers off guard, leading to questions about the biology and behavior of the pest. The researchers hope statewide tracking efforts will help them develop better management recommendations, as well as warn crop growers of impending damage.
Dr. Katie Ellis, Penn State Ag Innovations for Specialty Crops Extension Educator

The Web site directs users to a mapping tool that allows fruit and vegetable growers, field crop growers, nursery operators and homeowners to enter the location and size of stink bug infestations, as well as any damage (estimated dollar value) caused by the pest. The site also acts as an online clearinghouse for descriptions and management information for the BMSB. This monitoring tool takes the unique approach of soliciting help from homeowners, whose properties are seen as possible point sources for infestations affecting agricultural crops.

To use the tool, participants must first create a username and password and log in. The user then may enter data as a “farmer”, “nursery owner” or “homeowner”.  After logging in, a series of drop-down menus zoom in to the user’s map location, which can be saved for future reporting sessions. Alternatively, latitude/longitude numbers may be entered for specific locations. The “farmer” user then enters the date of infestation, average number of stink bugs per plant (apple, cherry, peach, plum, grape or other available field and small fruit crops) and percent damage. The tool allows reporting of organic blocks, as well as other insects: multi-colored Asian lady beetles, boxelder bugs and leaf-footed bugs. If historic data (from 2009 or 2010) are available, users can enter those too.

Growers are strongly encouraged to report their infestations; the tool’s benefit will increase as more people enter data. In the short term, the data could be used to warn growers of impending stink bug activity in order to enact appropriate control measures for crop protection. Increased knowledge surrounding pest behavior, movement and population development will also help the researchers improve long-term management strategies for growers and homeowners. Better yet, growers and property owners will know that they are directly contributing to research that will combat this destructive, invasive pest.