The brown marmorated stink bug, an invasive species from Asia, has terrorized growers and homeowners across the country for several years, decimating crop harvests and popping up in residents’ living rooms.
As of September, the stink bugs were detected in 44 states, and the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic were the hardest-hit areas of the U.S., according to StopBMSB.org.
A significant stink bug population has emerged in the Finger Lakes and/or Rochester in recent years, said Peter Jentsch, extension associate and director of the Hudson Valley Research Laboratory in Lloyd, Ulster County.
The wasps parasitize brown marmorated stink bug eggs, meaning they lay their own young into the stink bug eggs, killing the developing stink bugs within. The wasps are about the size of the head of a pin.About 280 stink bug eggs with developing wasps inside were recently distributed to wooded areas around Geneva, said Jentsch, as well as to areas in the Hudson Valley. As those wasps reach adulthood, the Rochester area should see a positive impact on its stink bug population, probably by next spring, he said. If this works, growers hopefully won’t have to use as many insecticides on their crops to battle the pests, he said.
The wasps won't become a pest problem unto themselves because they don't congregate in urban areas, and they won't damage other insects, as they specifically target brown marmorated stink bugs, said Jentsch.
The stink bugs eat over 100 types of plants and vegetables, and in the winter, they find their way into homes through cracks and crevices.
Jetsch's lab is involved in a citizen project to identify where brown marmorated stink bugs reside in the U.S.
Residents can report stink bug sightings and information about their location. The project ends Dec. 1.
Here are 10 things you should know about the pesky critters.
Brown marmorated stink bugs are native to Japan, China and Korea and were accidentally imported to the Allentown, Pennsylvania, region in the late 1990s. They have no natural predators in the U.S.
They've spread to 44 states in 2017, up from 42 states in 2015. They were found in New York in 2010.
People have described the smell as anything from skunk to dirty socks to coriander, and squashing them releases the odor. Do so at your own risk.
Nine states in the Northeast and the mid-Atlantic, including New York, reported "severe nuisance and agricultural damage" in 2017, up from six in 2014.
The stink bugs' effect can cause "scabs" and bruising on fruit and vegetables.
If there are cracks in screens, door jams, roofs or walls, stink bugs will find them. To make your home stink bug-proof, check around windows and doors for small openings, both indoors and outdoors.
If you live near a wooded area or have a vegetable garden, your home may have a higher risk of stink bugs. If you have potted plants in your home, that's where stink bugs might congregate.
Some predatory stink bug species are capable of biting humans, but most sources say brown marmorated stink bugs lack the ability to bite a human being. While it's extremely unlikely that these stink bugs could or would bite a human or a pet, they can bite through plant bark, so it could be a remote possibility, said Jentsch.
Some have claimed they've been bitten by stink bugs, causing pain or a rash.
The bugs also won't destroy indoor non-plant material.They just want a warm window where they can sun themselves.
Vacuuming stink bugs makes for a quick and clean disposal, but your vacuum might not smell so great afterward.
Stink bugs like light and they can't swim, so a desk lamp with a tub of soapy water underneath works as an impromptu stink bug trap. You can also buy lighted stink bug traps at local hardware stores.
Exterminators can spray the exterior of a severely infested house with chemicals that kill insects on contact. While there are pesticide products on the market that can legally be used against stink bugs inside the home, they are not the most effective option, as stink bugs may live within walls and pesticides can be harmful to humans and pets inside, according to the National Wildlife Federation.