The brown marmorated stink bug and the kudzu bug are invading the South in huge numbers with the potential to destroy millions of dollars of numerous crops. Probably the biggest worry is the damage these bugs could do in the diverse cropping of Florida where the marmorated stink bug has already been found.
The brown marmorated stink bug is native to China, and according to reports, was first discovered in Allentown, Pa., in 1998, coming to this country from foreign cargo. It has spread widely going south as much as anywhere because it likes warm weather.
Another Asian stink bug, native to Japan and being called the kudzu bug, came into the country without being discovered until 2009 in Georgia. It attacked kudzu first, but the kudzu bug eats soybeans and other legume crops, too, it has been proven. Reportedly, it migrates from kudzu in the spring to soybeans in July.
Kudzu bugs have been found in 143 Georgia counties, 42 counties in North Carolina and five counties in Alabama, reports the University of Georgia’s College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. That area covers about 108,000 square miles, reducing legume/soybean crop yields by about 20 percent in general. The kudzu bug is reportedly a high flying long distance flyer.
The brown marmorated stink bug likes a wide assortment of crops including tree fruit. In the Mid-Atlantic region $37 million in damage was reported to apples in 2010, and in 2011 one third of Maryland’s peach crop and half of the state’s raspberries were destroyed by the insect.
The Washington Post writer Darryl Fears quoted Douglas Luster, research leader for the U.S. Agriculture Department, as saying the small population in Florida, where there is ideal climate for this particular stink bug, could result in a population explosion “like the atomic bomb going off.”
Florida is testing a non-stinging parasitic wasp, also from Asia, as a natural stink bug predator with potential to keep the stink bug population down. Entomologists might unleash wasps in October, if necessary, Denise Feiber, a spokeswoman for the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services told the Washington Post writer. The USDA Agricultural Research Center has been doing testing with another wasp that preys on stink bug eggs, the newspaper noted. The concern with releasing wasps is the potential that they can also become invasive pests.
“Tracy Leskey, a research entomologist for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, said entomologists can’t stop stink bugs, but they can slow them down. The USDA research program and its academic partners received a $5.7 million grant, allowing them to watch the bugs’ every move,” according to the Washington Post’s Fears.
Entomologists have found stink bugs hiding in all types of vegetation and terrain, which doesn’t fare well for eliminating them once they invade areas.