Pew! – An unwanted, stinky, hungry guest

The holidays are just around the corner and just like the unwanted holiday guest who eats all the food in the fridge and smells up the house the Brown Marmorated Stink Bug(BMSB)  has arrived. The BMSB is an invasive species originally from Asia and arrived in the late 1990’s in Allentown, PA. They originally spread out along the East Coast and have now made their way West. According to a report in USA Today they have now been found in 33 states throughout the US.

Annoyance or Threat?

For humans the BMSB is more of an annoyance than a threat. They can invade homes by the thousands, arriving in the fall as the weather begins to get cold and not leaving until the warm weather in the spring. Their name of ‘Stink Bug’ is due to the stench given off when they are squashed or frightened.
The real danger of stink bugs is their damage to agriculture. They love feasting on fruits such as apples, pears and grapes which are all important crops here in Washington State. Their feasts leave ruined fruit which can have a devastating economic effect on the agricultural sector.

How can we control the BMSB?

Like many invasive species the BMSB thrives here in the states because they do not have to deal with their natural predators which naturally help to control the population and they have been found to be resistant to most pesticides. According to the USDA the natural predator for the BMSB is a tiny wasp, about the size of the head of a pin. The wasps lay their eggs in the eggs of the stink bug. This kills the stinkbug larvae and allows the wasp larvae to survive. This form of pest control is known as Integrated Pest Management and is a non-toxic and natural way of controlling pests.

Do you notice any potential problems in this process? While this is a non toxic way to control the stinkbug population it also introduces a new possible problem of introducing yet another non-native species into the environment! The worry is that this beneficial insect might turn out to be a pest as well, just like other species that have been introduced as pest control. The USDA is currently conducting controlled studies to see what other effects the wasps may have on the environment here in the US.  This test should take around two years to complete.

Not willing to wait two years for a possible solution? David Mizejewski, a naturalist with the National Wildlife Federation has some ‘tasty’ ways you can help!

A Bright Future for the BMSB?

Knowledge of the BMSB is a critical element of tackeling this problem. Naturalist Dr. Doug Inkely with the National Wildlife Federation has been studing the problem in his own home for years. Recently he has combined forces with the US Department of Agriculture to study this pest inorder to better understand it and treat the problem as soon as possible.

A Final Note

Although invasive species like the BMSB don’t cause direct harm to humans they can have devastating effects on the natural ecosystems of their new home. They are the second leading threat to native wildlife after habitat loss. Much of the native wildlife are endangered species. Check out ways to help stop the spread of Invasive Species!

Published: October 21, 2011