Where Have All the Stink Bugs Gone?
In 2010, the pest management industry was abuzz with talk of the impending stink bug invasion. Not since the resurgence of bed bugs had we at American Pest seen a pest burst on to the scene with little warning and we seemed a bit unprepared to deal with the invasion. This was a relatively new pest to the area and they had arrived en masse in late summer. I’ve heard stories of water well pumps being clogged with dead bodies of the arthropods, of vehicle accidents directly attributable to being buzzed by a brown marmorated stink bug, and even folks afraid to get out of their cars for fear of being attacked.
In September of 2011, we at American Pest were contemplating interesting questions…like where are all of the stink bugs that we expected to be arriving at our customer’s homes? And what about the impending commotion they’ve become so well known for creating? The heaviest interest for stink bugs at American Pest for 2010 occurred mid- to late September. Since then, we’ve been waiting, watching and preparing for an army of the shield-like, odorous pests to seek shelter in our Maryland homes and businesses.
Last winter, as daytime temperatures climbed and sunshine filled our homes we certainly had lots of stink bugs that appeared on windows and buzzed around interior lights at night, only to go back into hiding for the remainder of the cold weather. There also seemed to be a fair number out and about during the first warm days of spring. We could easily go outside of our office building in Fulton, MD to collect as many of them at any time we chose to.
In July and August we even went as far as to test and review an exterior stink bug trap designed with a pheromone attractant and manufactured by a company that has been able to bring effective insect traps to the market in the past. But here we are in early October having had temperatures dip into the 40’s in the past week…which we thought would have surely brought the bugs flocking to our homes…and it just didn’t happen. We are still left to question where all the Stink Bugs have gone. Will there be no descent upon us like the plague of periodical cicadas that emerge throughout the Washington DC area every 17 years?
The Brown Marmorated Stink Bug, the agricultural crop-damaging insect in question, is not native to Maryland but was introduced from Asia and was first identified in the US in 2001 in Allentown, PA. Stink bugs belong to the order of insects appropriately named Hemiptera, the so called True Bugs, which also include bed bugs and cicadas. Hemipterans, as all the insect members of this order are called, have piercing sucking mouthparts that allow feeding on plant juices or human blood, in the case of the bed bug. Stink bugs are in the family of true bugs called Pentatomidae which refers to having antenna that have five sections. The scientific name (also the Latin name) for the brown marmorated stink bug is Halyomorpha halys. As adults, stink bugs enter homes and other buildings in the fall looking for a good spot to spend the winter. After surviving the cold and snow in an attic or wall void, the adults return to the outside in the spring to mate and lay eggs, giving rise to another generation. Fully developed adults will be visible by July or August. Stink bugs can be prevented from entering structures by sealing cracks and other openings. Typical entry points include cracks and crevices around window and door trim, window-mounted air conditioners, exhaust fans, and chimneys. Cracks or other openings should be sealed with caulk to prevent entry by the adult stink bugs. Stink bugs are harmless to pets and humans but can cause some serious damage to fruit crops.
So here we sit in our office with Stink bug abatement programs, stink bug killing equipment and pesticides, traps for indoors or out and…I feel a bit like I did right after Y2K.
Oh yes…where did they go? Well I am not really sure…time may tell. But in the meantime, I suggest looking in the nearest phone booth, or where you store your 8 track and cassette tapes. Maybe I’ll even check the box that my Sony Betamax is stored in. Some things come and stay. Most come and go. And sometimes you just don’t understand why they didn’t hang around.
Wayne White is a board certified entomologist and the Technical Director for American Pest. Follow him on Twitter at @askthebugguy to get the latest news, tips and facts about pests plaguing the DC metro and surrounding areas including Silver Spring, Rockville and Falls Church.
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