Central Virginia Organic Gardener

"And 'tis my faith that every flower enjoys the air it breathes." - William Wordsworth, 1798

Monday, October 4, 2010

Stinky Invaders

A Big Stink

[Image: David R. Lance, USDA APHIS PPQThis image is Image Number 1460048 at Invasive.org, a source for images of invasive and exotic species operated by The Bugwood Network at the University of Georgia and the USDA APHIS Plant Protection and Quarantine program.]

We have yet another invasive, exotic pest to worry about, i.e. the brown, marmorated stink bug (pictured above). This insect, native to Asia, was accidentally imported to the east coast in 1998 and joins about 200 species of native stink bugs. They get their name from their charming habit of emitting a nasty odor when disturbed. So why should you care about them? For two reasons: 1. their numbers are exploding on the east coast (they have too few predators here, though praying mantids and some birds have been seen eating them) to the point where they are damaging large numbers of fruit and vegetable crops, reducing yield (they pierce the fruits and veggies, suck and the juice and start them rotting) and 2. They want to move in. With you. Into your house. For the winter.

So, a few things. If they do move into your house, don't crush them. Ick... unless you love the scent of stink bug. Don't spray pesticides indoors- you're organic, right? Besides, it won't stop other stink bugs from coming in and how much pesticide can you live with? The best remedy to keep them outdoors is to caulk up any cracks or crevices in your home where they can get in. If some do get in, vacuum them up and toss away the bag (because it will smell too).

The garden is another story. Encouraging birds and setting out praying mantis eggs cases may be effective organic controls (and these are good controls for other bugs). However, this invasion is so recent that little research has been done and the experts don't yet know what to recommend. Cleaning up overwintering sites might help (like removing leaves and dead plant matter), but this reduces beneficial bugs too.

Happy gardening?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Happened to remove the faceplate covering a crank handle on a casement window recently. Huddled inside that faceplate were 8+ stinkbugs. The faceplate was the only thing keeping them outside of the house. They are on my windowscreens every day, and were on whatever tomatoes my plants produced. It is an invasion.