Virginia Tech researchers are exploring ways to sustainably control the brown marmorated stink bug in vegetable crops.

Thomas Kuhar and Kathy Kamminga, Virginia Tech entomologists, have received a Southern Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) On-Farm Research Grant to find Integrated Pest Management (IPM) alternatives to conventional insecticides for controlling the invasive pest.

“The current answers to controlling the brown marmorated stink bug are not sustainable and, in fact, they are quite disruptive,” said Kuhar.

“The goal of this research is to find an IPM approach to managing this bug.”

The brown marmorated stink bug, an invasive pest from Asia, was first found in Pennsylvania in early 2000 and continues to spread. It has had damaging effects on fruit trees and vegetable crops in many mid-Atlantic states, including Virginia.

“The brown marmorated stink bug is mainly a tree pest, but there are aspects of its biology where it needs multiple host plants for development and health, and this is where it becomes a pest of row crops and vegetables,” said Kuhar.

“Since the stink bug is primarily a mid-to-late summer pest, it attacks such crops as sweet corn, edible beans, fruit trees, peppers, tomatoes, eggplant and okra.”

In the two-year study, Kuhar plans to use trap cropping as one sustainable method of controlling the pest, specifically in peppers. The research will be conducted on-farm and at various research stations across the state.

“We collected some data last year and found that the brown marmorated stink bug has a strong preference for sweet corn and sunflowers, so we hope to use these two crops as trap crops to draw them in, and then evaluate ways to get rid of them,” said Kuhar.

In addition to trap cropping, Kuhar also plans to explore novel row covers for growers where fields are heavily infested.

“Organic growers are already using row covers to protect their crops against such pests as cucumber beetles,” said Kuhar.

“We are going to look at some new ways of using row covers to help protect crops during critical periods of being exposed to the stink bug.”

Kuhar will also evaluate several Organic Materials Review Institute (OMRI)-certified pesticides as potential alternatives to the broad-spectrum insecticides are that currently labeled for use in controlling the brown marmorated stink bug.

“We hope the results provide methods of control for anyone interested in sustainable practices,” said Kuhar.

To learn more about the Southern SARE-funded project, “Sustainable Practices for the Management of the Invasive Brown Marmorated Stink Bug, Halyomorpha halys (Stal), on Vegetables,” visit the national SARE Outreach projects database and search by project number OS12-065.

(The brown marmorated stink bug’s movement to the south is expected to continue over time. To see what is happening on that front, click here. And there is considerable concern the pest will begin doing damage to corn and soybeans. For a look at that situation, click here).