What is in this article?:
- Brown marmorated stink bug threatens Virginia crops
- Cotton crop in the way
- Prolific creatures
• The brown marmorated stink bug is 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.
Cotton crop in the way
Of particular concern is the state’s biggest ever cotton crop. Okra, a close cousin of cotton has shown to be highly susceptible to the marmorated stink bug. With an expected 50 percent increase in cotton acreage expected in Virginia this year, another potentially destructive pest is exactly what farmers don’t need.
As of June of this year, the winged native of Asia has become an aggravating pest for homeowners in 33 states and the District of Columbia. While row crop farmers may get their turn at bat with marmorated stink bugs, fruit growers in the Mid-Atlantic States are already battling the pest.
With peaches, apples, and even berries, the major issue is the visible damage a stink bug does. On apples, for example, the bug will insert its tongue into the fruit and suck, leaving a "corky dry area" that's visible to shoppers, says Tracy Leskey,an Agriculture Department entomologist who's co-leading a national working group researching the stink bug. "It looks bad," she says, though it won't affect the flavor.
The Virginia wine industry is particularly concerned about the relatively new pest. These stink bugs burrow into the fruit and vines and can easily be dumped into a wine vat and become part of the winemaking process.
How many stink bugs it takes to create off-flavor is unknown, but a major concern for Virginia wine grape growers.
In grapes, the bugs stick to the clumps of fruit during the picking season and can end up in wine presses. As few as10 stink bugs crushed into one ton of grapes can ruin the wine.
For workers, charged with harvesting wine grapes, the little brown bug has become a major source of irritation. Finding a couple of these stinky bugs on a hand-sized clump is typical. Winery workers have to pull the half-inch-long bugs off by hand, which often produces a sickening odor that has been described as smelling like a decaying animal.
Other crops, including corn, tomatoes and soybeans have been damaged to varying degrees by the new pest.
Brown marmorated stink bugs have proven to be excellent hitch-hikers, easily making their way across the country. Their propensity for over-wintering in homes could prove to be a blessing or a curse for the little critters.
The stink bug home invasions have quickly raised the general public to action, a fate not usually found for predominantly agricultural insect pests. This kind of publicity could lead to quick and decisive action against these stink bugs — a good riddance according to row crop farmers.
The pests were first documented in the U.S. in the late 1990s and didn’t become much of a problem until the last couple of years. Because of its late arrival entomologists haven’t quite got a clear shot at them — at least not yet, but economically feasible, environmentally safe management strategies are coming along fast and furious.
Being a home-body may have its public drawbacks for brown marmarated stink bugs, but it could provide a plentiful and bountiful site for over-wintering. Though these bugs have yet to find many plants they don’t like to eat, over-wintering in a forest or fallow field is a bit tougher than making do in an attic or other home site.