Last year, the brown marmorated stink bug became a stinking major insect pest in much of the Mid-Atlantic. Widespread damage to many crops shifted problem-solving research to high priority for U.S. Department of Agriculture and Cooperative Extension experts. That's good, because entomologists in the region expect an even bigger problem this year.
Yesterday, Penn State researchers introduced a web-based tool to help fruit and vegetable growers, field-crop growers, nursery operators and homeowners cope with the invasive bug: http://stinkbug-info.org. A mapping tool was developed in collaboration with Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture to give the researchers better information about the insect's population dynamics, explains Penn State Entomologist John Tooker.
The mapping tool will enable fruit and vegetable growers, field-crop growers, nursery operators and homeowners to report the location and size of infestations and the estimated dollar value of damages, if any, caused by the pest, adds Douglas Miller, director of the Center for Environmental Informatics in the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences.
The two urge producers and consumers to contribute information, by first registering at the web site. In the short term, says Tooker, data collected could provide an early warning for growers about where stink-bug populations are occurring so they can take appropriate action to protect their crops. "In the long term, we hope to learn more about how the pest spreads and moves between crops, with an eye toward developing better management strategies."
To report an infestation, visitors to the site first register to create a user name and password. They then will be able to enter information about their infestation, including the county and municipality, date and the number of stink bugs observed per plant or in and around a home. Growers also can report infestations in the two previous seasons to document economic loss.
"To get maximum benefit from the tool, we need as many people as possible to report their infestations," said Tooker.
"After emerging from overwintering sites -- sometimes as late as early June -- they move on to any green plant with succulent growth," reports Greg Krawczyk, tree fruit extension entomologist at Penn State's Fruit Research and Extension Center in Biglerville. "Eventually, they will start moving into crops, but we have not yet seen a large number of these stink bugs in orchards this year."
Bigger problem this year
Overwintering stink bug populations were higher in 2010 than they were the previous year. Krawczyk expects them to be more plentiful in 2011.
"As a result of laboratory research over the winter, we now know which pesticides are most effective against these stink bugs," he adds. "We've also identified some selective pesticides that are effective against stink bugs, but have lower toxicity so they'll preserve the beneficial insects that growers rely on to control other pests as part of integrated pest management programs."
That information is expected to be posted on the web site.