From: Editor, ENN
Published August 29, 2013 04:18 PM

Stink Bug Populations Could Harm Late-Season Harvests

Halyomorpha halys, better known as the stink bug, was accidentally introduced into the United States in 1998. Being known as an invasive species in recent years, this bug has infested homes from the East Coast to the Midwest, causing significant damage as an agricultural pest.

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Surveys in Oregon have also reported the presence of the stink bug and researchers at Oregon State University warn of an increased risk of damage to late-ripening crops this year after discovering record levels of the pest.

Harvest for many crops, including blueberries, raspberries, apples, pears, hazelnuts, grapes, sweet corn, peppers, and edible beans is looming and the fact that the pest has shown an appetite for more than 100 different crops is not good news for these plants.

Late-season feeding and contamination by adult stink bugs and nymphs can result in discoloration of fruit, vegetables and nuts — ultimately sullying the crops' value at the marketplace. While no economic damage from the pest has been documented thus far in Oregon, OSU researchers worry that could change after this summer.

"Even low levels of infestation can result in crop losses," said Vaughn Walton, an entomologist at OSU. "Stink bugs in commercial crops can lead to increased management costs, pesticide use and outbreaks of secondary pests. There's no question stink bugs could be an economic issue."

OSU's statewide survey for the bug is ongoing and early returns this year show higher population densities in nearly every area of Oregon. While the stink bug been established in urban counties near Portland and the Willamette Valley for years — and in Hood River and Wasco County since 2012 — its range has recently expanded to more rural environments, including farms of all sizes. 

Last year's mild winter in Oregon, coupled with this summer's heat, has driven the stink bug's population growth, said Nik Wiman, an OSU research entomologist. Populations are increasing faster than anticipated and tend to peak in late summer, he added.

"Pre-harvest is a time when stink bugs are more likely infest crops and lay eggs because late-stage crops are an attractive food source," said Wiman. "The adults and nymphs cause blemishes when they feed on ripening fruit, nuts and vegetables, rendering them unmarketable."

Researchers warn farmers and growers to look for the pest on their property or near crops as they ripen. The bugs are most easily found on indicator plants, like English holly, maples, lilacs or fruit trees.

Read more at Oregon State University.

Stink bug image via Shutterstock.

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