Coming this summer to a crop or home near you — one of Asia’s least likeable exports, the brown marmorated stink bug.

These stink bugs get the biggest headlines from irate homeowners who have battled the critters tooth and nail the past couple of years throughout the Mid-Atlantic states. Now, the aptly named insects are posing a real threat to crops from Maryland southward deep into the heart of Virginia. Next up could be a rich smorgasbord of grain and fiber crops in the Southeast.

From a strictly non-technical perspective the brown marmorated stink bug eats virtually anything, from the hard-to-get-to meat encased in an acorn to the soft flesh of a wine grape.

Already, it has caused debilitating damage to fruit operations in northern Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley and appears poised to make a run at field crops.

Peach growers are already dealing with the stinky insects in Virginia, and keeping easy to penetrate young peaches out of harms way will be real challenge. Even peaches sprayed numerous times to control brown marmarated sting bugs bear the scars of feeding, making the fruit unmarketable in many cases.

One Virginia peach grower reported spraying his orchards 18 times with an array of different insecticides, from Baythroid to Orthene, with good results each time. However, the stink bug populations just kept coming.

What’s next for these prolific insects is a big question for Virginia agriculture right now and maybe for other southern states in the near future.

Ames Herbert, a Virginia Tech Entomologist and leader of the state’s Integrated Pest Management program says he is stepping up tests to monitor brown marmorated stink bugs in cotton and soybeans this year.

“We saw some damage in field crops last year, but numbers weren’t high enough to cause widespread damage. We recently received reports of high populations of these insects in the Virginia Beach area, which, if accurate, will increase our concern for row crops.

“In the past couple of years, brown marmalated stink bugs were found in crops primarily in areas that border fruit production and confined to the northern part of the state. If the reports from Virginia Beach and Hampton Roads are accurate, that places them in large numbers in the Coastal Plain for the first time, which is a concern,” says the veteran Virginia Tech entomologist