If you're out and about in the late afternoon or early evening, you've probably seen them – bug-ugly, dime-sized beetles crawling in your crops, gardens and buildings. In sufficient numbers, they'll even raise a stink – without being squashed.
In the last two years, brown marmorated stink bugs have become a major threat to fruit orchards and vegetable and grain fields across the country. And as reported here, they've been sapping and chewing on Mid-Atlantic crops since mid-summer. The SMSB have also expanded their range all the way north to Maine.
That's why Penn State University researchers have expanded a newly web monitoring tool to help growers report BMSB problems and eventually help drive pest management decisions. The free web-based tool, developed in collaboration with the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, can be found online at: http://stinkbug-info.org/ .
The tool gives growers more information about the BMSB population dynamics. "The tool will also allow people to report where they see large populations. The hope is that we can use this information as an early warning system to alert growers of the large populations," explains Penn State Extension Entomologist John Tooker.
Tooker developed the tool with Douglas Miller, director of the Center for Environmental Informatics in Penn State's College of Earth and Mineral Sciences. Miller and his team expanded the capabilities nationwide, so fruit and vegetable growers, field-crop growers, nursery operators and homeowners in the 48 contiguous states can report the location and size of infestations and the estimated dollar value of damages, if any, caused by the pest. The site also contains control information, photos plus management tips for homeowners.
"The data collected could provide an early warning for growers about where stink-bug populations are occurring so they can take appropriate action to protect their crops," says Tooker.
To report an infestation, you'll need to register first at the site to receive a user name and password. Then you'll be able to enter information about their infestation, including the county and municipality, date and the number of stink bugs observed per plant or in and around a home. Growers also can report infestations in the two previous seasons to document economic loss.
Current BMSB status
As noted above, the stink bug has greatly expanded its range during 2011, through New York State and New England. In apples alone, BMSB caused an estimated $37 million in 2010 losses in the Mid-Atlantic region.
During late fall and early winter, they seek out warm places to live, many times invading private homes, becoming a general nuisance and causing a foul odor. After emerging from overwintering sites, BMSB move onto ornamental plants, and into orchard, vegetable and grain crops.
"This summer in southern Pennsylvania, we have seen large populations in corn and soybean fields, and the bugs continue to trouble fruit and vegetable growers," he says. "In grain crops, infestations of the bugs have been spotty. But local populations can be pretty high, like 20 bugs on a single corn plant. And there's a concern that as autumn approaches and field crops senesce stink bugs will move into fruit crops like apples, which are harvested later in the year."For more information on BMSB, see the Northeastern IPM Center Regional Pest Alert on BMSB at http://www.hgic.umd.edu/_media/documents/publications/Stink_Bug_Pest_Alert.pdf, or Penn State's Department of Entomology's fact sheet at http://ento.psu.edu/extension/factsheets/pdf/BrownMarmoratedStinkBug.pdf.