Move over Bed Bugs – there is a new hitch-hiker in town…the Brown Marmorated Stink Bug!
There are over 200 native species of Stink Bugs in North America and some are important predators of other pests. The Brown Marmorated Stink Bug which has been causing some major destruction in the South Jersey area is NOT.
Every year, for the past 10 years, homes in South Jersey have experienced more and more of these pesky critters.
At first, it was just a few here and there. Recently, they have been reported in the hundreds, and in a few cases, thousands of homes in the South Jersey area.
Stink Bugs are relatively harmless to humans except for the odor they emit when threatened, crushed or moved.
They are, however, a major threat to produce and plants. They attack fruits and vegetables such as peaches, apples, green peppers, beans, sweet corn, soybeans, and tomatoes. They also attack rose bushes, honeysuckle, crab apple, ornamental plants and even some weeds. Maybe you have noticed them in your own backyard garden. Apple growers in the Mid-Atlantic States recently reported a $37 Million loss which has garnered the Stink Bug some national attention.
The Brown Marmorated Stink Bug is native of China, Japan, Korea and Taiwan, and was first introduced accidentally in Allentown, PA, in the 1990’s.
With few natural predators to keep them in check, they have hitch-hiked across America and have now been reported in over 30 states feeding on over 300 reported species of plants.
Stink Bugs are what we call “True Bugs” – which means they have no chewing mouth parts and have two pairs of wings. What they do have is a rostrum – a thin needle used for sucking the nourishment they need to survive from plant life. Other examples of true bugs are Box Elder Bugs and Assassin Bugs.
All of these bugs have something else in common – they want to find a safe place to keep warm in the winter months. This is called “Overwintering.”
The most convenient place they can find is YOUR HOME and that’s where the problem begins.
They are attracted to light and heat – your home provides both.
Once inside and settled down, they hibernate. They do no damage, nor do they reproduce during this time period.
The biggest problems occur when they first enter your home – September through October when the weather starts to cool and when they try to leave, April through June, depending on the arrival of warm weather.
When either of these occurs, you may see many of these insects in and around your home – sometimes in numbers that can be scary!
When a Brown Marmorated Stink Bug finds a site that is suitable for overwintering it releases a chemical called an aggregation pheromone. The aggregation pheromone is a scent that attracts other brown Marmorated Stink Bugs to the area.
The aggregation pheromone is not the same chemical that causes them to stink. This scent is why these pesky critters collect in such large clusters and why your best defense is a good offense – KEEP THEM OUT!
STINK BUG BIOLOGY
Female Stink Bugs lay masses of eggs, between 30 and 100, underneath leaves from May to August. The eggs take less than a week to hatch. After hatching they become nymphs and will now go through a series of 5 molts. This is when they shed skins and grow larger looking more like the adults. Toward the later stages of molting, they will develop their wings. They become adults, in a few short weeks.
The female Stink Bug usually produces a single generation per year. However, if it’s is an unusually warm Spring and Summer, she can produce 2 to 3 generations. In their native countries, they can produce 6 generations – a scary proposition given the crazy weather patterns we have had in South Jersey the past few years.
Females are ready to lay eggs less than a month after becoming an adult. On average the Stink Bug can live 9 to 12 months.
The adult Stink Bug is approximately 5/8” long. They have two pairs of wings and red eyes. When they are at rest, these wings fold over and form what looks like a shield. That is why they are sometimes called “Shield Bugs.”