Courier Staff Writer
A bug that was once only found in China and Japan has hitched a ride to Iowa.
The Iowa State University Plant and Insect Diagnostic Clinic has confirmed that the brown marmorated stink bug has made its way to both Scott and Johnson counties.
“The stink bug tends to overwinter in human habitations and vehicles,” said Laura Jesse, extension entomologist at the diagnostic clinic. “It’s hitched a ride from out east and made it’s way here. It was human-aided, but not in a good way.”
First identified in the United States in Pennsylvania in 2001, the stink bug has now been detected in Iowa and six of the seven surrounding states. In early October, the first stink bugs in Iowa were reported in Scott County, and additional samples from the Davenport and Bettendorf area were identified last week as BMSB.
While no counties in southeast Iowa have been identified as infested yet, the stink bug has proven itself to spread rapidly once in a new area.
“It’s hard to identify when there’s only one bug, but when there are three or four different people in a county sending us information, we’re better able to monitor its movement,” Jesse said.
The stink bug has been found in 38 states, posing severe agricultural problems in six of them and nuisance problems in 10 others.
“When we look at the East Coast, it took about a decade before there were severe plant problems and a significant breeding population,” Jesse said.
During the summer months, stink bugs use their piercing and sucking mouthparts to feed on plant sap from fruits, vegetables, ornamentals and field crops. For gardeners, this means attacks on apple trees, peppers, tomatoes and other vegetation. Farmers need to be aware of the bugs’ appetite for both corn and soybeans.
As the days cool off, they migrate to overwintering sites, congregating on houses and buildings. They will often wander into homes much the way boxelder bugs and multicolored Asian lady beetles do. Stink bugs are named for the disagreeable odor they produce, making the invasion even more unpleasant.
“The stink bug is an accidental invader, so we’re relying on homeowners to identify the stink bug if they see it,” Jesse said. “If they email us a picture or send in the bug, we can better track its movement over the next few years.”
Identifying the movement of the stink bug through Iowa is critical, Jesse says. While they’re able to watch the way eastern states are dealing with the infestation, biological control and increasing insecticide sprays aren’t effective methods when so much relies on safe crop procedures.
“We hope that before it’s a problem, we can learn what to do to control the breeding population,” Jesse said. “Right now we’re just in the infancy. We can monitor it and track it. And we can watch the East Coast and learn how they’re dealing with this damaging population.”
For your information
To have digital pictures of stink bugs identified or to submit any questions about insects in the region, email the ISU Plant and Insect Diagnostic Clinic at firstname.lastname@example.org.