It’s feeding season for the brown marmorated stink bug. Area farmers are bracing themselves for possible damage. Last year, the pest took a bite out of 18 per cent of the mid-Atlantic’s apple inventory alone. Richard Keim, owner of Keim Orchards in Boyertown, Pennsylvania, has waged war against the bug for two years. “We’ve learned that the stinkbug eats darn near everything. Last year the stinkbug damage that I incurred amounted to the reduction of my profits of somewhere between 30 – 40%,” says Keim. “In this business, mother nature really calls the shots, not us.” Keim says he’s managed to contain the problem this season so far. New Jersey agriculture officials estimate this year’s potential economic impact to be as much as $40 million.
Jack Rabin, who researches commercial crop pest control at Rutgers University’s New Jersey Agricultural Experiment station, says the bug has a voracious appetite, feasting on as many as 300 different plants. “Unlike some pests which might have one or two hosts, this has a very wide host range. The type of damage is a sucking, feeding damage on fruiting plants.”
Rabin says says the bugs will spend the winter and fall in homes. Then, when spring arrives, “they move out into farmer’s fields and gardens. They suck, they do their damage, they mate, they lay eggs. For a homeowner in the Delaware Valley, these are just a nuisance. For a farmer, these are their livelihood at stake.”
Rabin recommends residents keep their houses sealed up, monitor cozy hiding places like grill covers and attics, and destroy the bugs when they find them.