They are slow. They are stupid. They look like a cross between a cockroach and a decaying leaf teetering sluggishly across your window sill, like something with the body profile and behavior from an early ’80s Atari game. Squish it, and its meaty guts reek of rotting cilantro. They are moving in, and they aren’t stopping for anything. They are stink bugs.
The invasive Brown Marmorated Stink Bug, a.k.a. Halyomorpha halys, is filing into Ulster County, warned horticulture educator Theresa Rusinek of Cornell Cooperative Extension of Ulster County. She explained that the odd-looking, slow-moving bug is merely a nuisance pest at this point, as it neither stings nor bites, but it is a direct threat to the region’s fruit crop. Last year the U.S. Apple Association released a report pegging the estimated totals of stink bug damage to apples in Pennsylvania,Virginia, Maryland and West Virginia at $37 million.
Cornell began monitoring the stink bug invasion in 2010 through their Hudson Valley Research Laboratory Office experimental station in the farming community of Highland, asking people to send samples for confirmation. Now, Cornell Cooperative has enhanced the process by allowing people to take and send a picture on their iPhones with an embedded GPS system to help track the bugs.
According to Earth Watch, the stink bug has been “reeking” havoc in its Taiwan, China, Korea and Japan; since it made its American debut in the mid-1990s, arriving stateside via shipped cargo, “BMSB,” as it’s called, has wiped out as much as 80 percent of fruit crops in some farms as it migrates through West Virginia, Virginia, Maryland, Delaware and New Jersey on its way north.
Rusinek explained that the stink bug, which live a carbohydrate-rich existence, are aggregating with another invading Asian native — the juicy, deciduous Ailanthus tree. The concern, she said, is that when the sugar levels drop in the trees in the fall that the bugs will move out toward the crops to fulfill their quest for carbs.
Chemical warfare is basically useless unless you’re willing to break out serious big guns, which most homeowners are unlikely to be comfortable wielding, explained Rusinek. Rather, she suggested, sealing up your home’s nooks and crannies is the way to go.
Stink bugs don’t bite or sting. In fact, they really don’t even have mouths. Their elongated proboscises puncture fruit and drain it of their sugars, causing internal damage to the fruit that is not immediately obvious to the grower until harvest. They have an impressive lifespan for a bug — many reaching one full year — and females deposit their eggs from late April-middle of August.
In like Flynn
One guy not afraid to stick his hand in a jar of fanged, furry spiders is Peter Jentsch, entomologist at Cornell Cooperative Extension’s Hudson Valley Laboratory in Highland. He explained that people are beginning to see the stink bugs now because they likely wintered over in the cracks and crevices your home and have just woken up from hibernation. Stink bugs, he said, wake up thirsty, hungry and horny, in need of satisfying life’s basics within a 48-hour window.