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Originally published July 9 2011

Stink bug invasion strikes fruit, grain crops in North America

by C.E Burch

(NaturalNews) Stink bugs are more than annoying for many people in the mid-Atlantic region of the United States. One variety, the brown marmorated stink bug (BMSB) is wreaking havoc on many crops in the region. This invasive bug is native to Asia and was first encountered on US soil in Pennsylvania in the late 1990s. These stinky pests are taking a huge bite out of many types of crops including tomatoes, fruits, soy beans and corn.

In order to assist struggling farmers in states like Virginia and Pennsylvania, the EPA recently made an emergency exemption for the use of dinotefuran for Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, North Carolina and New Jersey. Dinotefuran is derived from a class of insecticides called neonicotinoids that act as a neurotoxin on insects.
This insecticide has been shown to be effective on this variety of stink bug, but unfortunately, it is also highly toxic to bees. Material handling sheets for this pesticide advise caution when spraying to avoid blooms and waterways where bees may be present.

In North America there are more than 200 native stink bugs, many of whom are beneficial because they help control other destructive pests. Unfortunately, the brown marmorated stink bug isn't that helpful, and it has no natural North American enemies to help check its spread. In fact, the brown marmorated stick bug is a tough bug to control, apparently resistant to many products routinely used for insect control on crops such as fruit trees. In Asia the BMSB has a natural enemy called Trissolcus wasps. The female Trissolcus lays her eggs in the eggs of the BMSB's eggs. When the wasp eggs hatch, the tiny wasps feed on the BMSB eggs.

Though researchers are encouraged the wasp's ability to act as stink bug control, there are still some concerns with using trissolcus as a matter of policy. For example, there are concerns that the tiny wasp may also feed on native stink bugs that are similar to BMSB. Furthermore, the introduction of invasive species often has unknown consequences for a region. Other tactics under consideration include using pheromones and traps to curb the stink bug infestation. BMSBs have made appearances in 30 states across the US though the mid-Atlantic has thus far taken the biggest hit.

BMSB is about a half-inch long and brown with a shield shaped shell. It can be distinguished from similar looking native stink bugs by the alternating light and dark bands on the antenna and sides of their abdomens.

Further reading on dinotefuran and bees:

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