If you’ve seen a brown marmorated stink bug in your home, Washington State University researchers want to know about it.
“Stink bugs aren’t dangerous to humans per se, but they are to our crops and ornamentals,” said WSU Extension entomologist Elizabeth Beers. “They attack a wide variety of crops, including vegetables and fruit trees, which Washington state just so happens to have a lot of, so we’re very concerned about these crops.”
During the winter you might find stink bugs hiding in your home to beat the cold, but as the warm weather of spring and summer approaches, they take to the fields and orchards — and they aren’t picky eaters.
Brown marmorated stink bugs will gorge on everything from crops to flowering dogwoods.
Stink bugs have inflicted millions of dollars in damages to crops and plants from Pennsylvania to Virginia. If the local invasion expands at a similar pace, it could be a decade before they do that kind of damage here, but WSU researchers are trying to regulate the insect’s population now.
The brown marmorated stink bug is an invasive species originating from Asia, which made its U.S debut in Pennsylvania in the mid 1990s and arrived in Washington in 2010.
Beers and other researchers have historically captured a majority of stink bugs in Yakima and Walla Walla, but now they’re starting to show up on the west side of the state.
Tumwater Hill resident Jason Callahan first noticed the shield-shaped insect in his home more than a year ago.
“I found one stink bug in my house last winter and didn’t even know what it was at first, I’d never seen one before,” said Callahan.
Callahan has family on the East Coast..
“I remembered how my mom always complained on the phone about little bugs in her house and in the back of my mind I thought maybe we had the same pest problem.”
One stink bug sighting last winter turned into about five per week this year.
Callahan posted about his pest problem on the private social networking site for neighborhoods, nextdoor.com. One response in particular was the most helpful. WSU Extension entomologist Michael Bush asked Callahan to send him a picture of the insect he found and confirmed that it was indeed the invasive brown marmorated stink bug. The easiest identifier are the thin white bands on the bug’s antennae.
Bush, Beers and other WSU researchers need continued help from citizens like Callahan to track the stink bug population.
“There are a lot of people working on a variety of ways to control these pests,” said Beers.
Beers advises homeowners to seal up any cracks in their home near windows and doors to prevent stink bugs from getting in. Beers also says the best way to get rid of them once they make their way into your home is to simply vacuum them up.
“Be careful when handling the stink bugs,” reminds Beers. “They’re called stink bugs for a reason and emit a foul odor when handled roughly.”
Homeowners are encouraged to send a picture of the stink bug and include information about where it was spotted to Bush at email@example.com or mail the bug in a pillbox to WSU Extension Office, 2403 S. 18th St. Suite 100, Union Gap, WA 98903.