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The United States is once again under attack from an invasive species. The brown marmorated stinkbugs have been in the northeastern part for more than a decade. They were first spotted in Allentown, Pennsylvania in 1998, and moved to other states such as New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut. Now, they have migrated to the South, where much of the country’s crops are grown.
This species of stinkbug, shaped like tiny shields with white-stranded antennae, is originally from China, Taiwan, and other East Asian countries. Entomologists believe that they may have hitched a ride with a cargo ship. They are agricultural pests in Asia, and love to chow down vegetables and fruits, notably soybeans, tomatoes, corn, apples, figs, peaches, and citrus fruits.
Since their arrival, the stinkbugs have become agricultural pests for the US. The Seattle Times and the Washington Post reported a couple of days ago that there have been sightings of these brown pests in Maryland, Georgia, South Carolina, Florida, and even Washington DC. A loss of $37 million in damaged crops has been estimated in 2010 alone.
Stinkbugs are bothersome indoors as well as outdoors – they like to dwell in residential homes and eat weeds and decorative household plants. They enter through cracks in doors, windows, pipes, etc.
“Chimneys, pipes, cable lines, electric junctions and other access points should be sealed with silicon or a silicon-latex mixture,” Miguel Saviroff, extension educator at the Penn State Cooperative Extension office in Pennsylvania, tells the Daily American. “Windows and screens should be properly fitted. They really only need a tiny space to get in.”
They are benign creatures for humans, though they are annoying when they are airborne, emitting a loud buzz. “They are a nuisance,” says Ivar Hansen, New York resident. “They disturb me.”
“I started seeing them two years ago,” an anonymous New Yorker states. “They fall in your food and in your hair, and there was one in my bed.”
It would be best for homeowners not to squish them, otherwise they would learn why stinkbugs have such an appellation the hard way: they’ll stink like rotten tomatoes. Entomologists in Pennsylvania recommend calling the exterminator instead of using insecticide and pesticides on your own. Household insecticides have been proven to be ineffective.
“We tried spraying with insecticide but it didn’t work. They didn’t die,” continues the anonymous New York resident, who once used Raid to clean a screen door coated with stink bugs.
“Smush them with a paper towel or a piece of toilet paper and flush them in the toilet,” she suggests.
The College of Agricultural Sciences at Penn State is wary of the use of vacuums to rid of the stinkbugs: even though one can remove them without dirtying ones hands, from inside the vacuum, “the vacuum may acquire the smell of stink bugs for a period of time.”
The US contains native stinkbug species, but their populations are prevented from skyrocketing due to natural predators. Since there are no natural predators for the brown marmorated stinkbugs, their population has wildly increased.
Scientists in Florida (where there is much fear that the population of this invasive species will burst) are testing with a nonstinging parasitic species of wasp from Asia that is a natural predator to the brown marmorated stinkbug. If things for the South – or for the US in its entirety – become worse, the wasps will have to be released, possibly sometime in October. However, they may, too, turn out to be an invasive species.
For now, just flush the stink bugs down the toilet.