Stink bugs attack orchards

    The insects invaded the area from Asia years ago, but have recently set their sights on local fruit trees.

    They are small, brown, noisy, smelly and may be attacking an orchard near you. Stink bugs invaded the area from Asia years ago, but have recently set their sights on local fruit trees.
    (Photo: Flickr/urtica)

    The first documented sighting of a stink bug in the US was in Allentown in the mid 90s. Since then the animals – yes, insects are animals – have flown, crawled or hitchhiked to at least 40 counties in Pennsylvania, and numerous other states.

    Stink bugs were mostly just a nuisance to residents, getting inside houses to over-winter. But last year their numbers exploded, and the bugs descended on fruit trees in West Virginia. They feed on the fruit, causing it to leak liquid or turn brown on the inside. George Hamilton, a Rutgers Extension Specialist in pest management, says New Jersey is now seeing similar problems.

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    Hamilton: This year, and I don’t know why, it might be the weather we’re having or whatnot, we’ve seen a similar explosion of the populations and we have peach growers that are experiencing high levels of damage.

    Hamilton says it’s too early to know the extent of the damage to the industry. Steve Jacobs, an entomologist at Penn State, says there’s no good solution yet to keeping stink bugs off the trees.

    Jacobs: I know that they have to spray a lot more in these orchards, and as a consequence of that it messes up some of the other programs that they have in place to reduce pesticides.

    Government and academic researchers are monitoring the damage done by stink bugs, and working to find a non-chemical way to eliminate the critters. Hamilton’s group is working with the USDA to find a predator for stink bugs that fruit growers can unleash on their orchards, to avoid using chemical pesticides.

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