Controlling these critters is easy enough and insecticides to do the job are plentiful enough. The problem is the prolific nature of these stink bugs keeps new populations coming throughout the warmer months of the year. So, killing a huge population is too often rewarded by having to do it over and over again.

 Researchers at Virginia Tech may have serendipitously stumbled upon a natural solution to the problem. Amanda Koppel, a former graduate student, working at Virginia Tech’s Tidewater Research Station in Suffolk, Va., happened upon marmorted brown insects while doing research on parasitic wasps used to kill brown and green stink bugs that commonly attack Virginia field crops.

Back in November of 2009, she warned, “On the horizon Southeastern growers might well have another species of stink bugs to worry about. The brown marmorated stink bug, Koppel says, is now an infrequent pest around houses, but has the potential to become a pest of crops.”

Now, Koppel’s major professor and long-time Virginia IPM Director Ames Herbert says the new pest is, “expanding its range at an amazingly rapid rate.  It is attacking a large number of fruit, vegetable, ornamental and row crops, and is also found on a wide variety of trees, bushes and weeds.  In Virginia, it has spread into many new counties now as far south as Virginia Beach.”

The cutting edge biological work done by Koppel at Virginia Tech may take on a new level of importance, if conventional control methods for the new insect prove to be ineffective.

One possibility for control of brown marmorated stink bugs under study across the country is a tiny wasp, the size of a comma in this story. Koppel, during a trip to China as a graduate student, was among the first to consider the stink bug's natural predator in Asia as a possible way to manage the insect in the United States.

The non-stinging wasp lays its eggs in the eggs of the stink bugs. The wasp larvae then feed on stink bug eggs. Entomologists are treading softly on this approach, not wanting to create a bigger problem with the wasps than they already have with stink bugs.

For homeowners and fruit growers in the Mid-Atlantic states, treading lightly may not be the right approach. Instead they may echo the sentiments from the Jerry Clower story about the coon hunter who found a lynx, not a raccoon, in the tree — the call-to-action being ‘just shoot up here among us, cause one of us has got to get some relief’.

rroberson@farmpress.com