One of the toughest crop pests to stop in Georiga is also the most economically devastating — the stink bug.

With piercing-sucking mouth parts, stink bugs feed on cotton bolls, destroy the seeds and prohibit the growth of lint, according to Michael Toews an associate professor of entomology on the Tifton campus of the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.

“My job is to identify and develop cost-effective ways of managing stink bugs that preserve yield and fiber quality for Georgia cotton farmers,” Toews said. “Currently, in the state of Georgia, this is our No. 1 economically-limiting insect pest.”

Toews estimates most Georgia cotton farmers will spray at least once for stink bugs during the bloom cycle.

Stink bugs also cause economic damage to various other Georgia crops, including vegetables, soybeans, corn and pecans. Not only do stink bugs feed on the seeds of these crops, they also transmit bacterial and fungal pathogens.

“Those pathogens can colonize and ruin everything in the whole cotton boll, not just that individual seed,” Toews said.

Insecticide use is the primary method for controlling stink bugs, though it can be costly, and sometimes less effective than expected.

Brown stink bugs are one of the three primary species found in Georgia. Unfortunately, this species is very tolerant of pyrethroids, the cheapest insecticide at the farmers’ disposal.

Toews estimates that more than 60 percent of growers have brown stink bugs in their fields in the southwestern part of the state. With a strong resistance to pyrethroids, those farmers need to use a more expensive insecticide with a different mode of action, he said.