First, there are a lot of different stink bugs out there and not all of them will damage your crops. In fact, some of them are beneficial predators in the garden. This article highlights one of those stink bugs: the Brown Marmorated Stink Bug (Halymorpha halys). This guy is an invasive pest that causes damage to a wide range of crops. Luckily, it is pretty easy to identify and squish. If you want to see a free online field guide to the main Stink Bugs (good and bad), then check out this incredible resource from Virginia.
How to Identify a Brown Marmorated Stink Bug
This picture surmises the key points. The smooth soldiers of the Brown Marmorated Stink Bug separate it from the Spined Soldier Bug (one of the good stink bugs). A unique identifier is the white bands on the antennae and on the legs (at the nymph stage and sometimes carried through to young adult). Following the striped them are the black and white patterns on the edges of the abdomen. It is well worth spending sometime to correctly identify these guys. Identification is the first step to control them; catch one in a jar and compare it to photos. Pretty soon you’ll recognize them on sight, but it’ll take some practice.
Control Stink Bugs Early
This is a relatively new pest problem in the USA (introduced from Asia to Pennsylvania in the 1990s; first sighting in NC (2009)). Research into biological controls is hopeful because in Asia they are not a major pest problem. The native Asian parasitoid Trissolcus japonicus is currently being researched as a possible control mechanism in the USA.
Squishing eggs, nymphs and adults is effective in the home garden, or brushing them into a bucket of soapy water. These guys like to overwinter inside homes, where they can be easily caught and killed and even vacuumed up!
Learn to identify the early stages of the Brown Marmorated Stink Bug:
Brown Marmorated Stink Bug Damage
A major concerns with the Brown Marmorated Stink Bug is it’s diverse culinary palette; with reported damage on a wide range of fruit and vegetable crops.
“Like all stink bugs, they have piercing, sucking mouth parts, and in addition to removing plant cell contents while feeding, they secrete enzymes that kill tissue. Damage has been most commonly observed on tomatoes, peppers, okra, apples, peaches, and corn, and is expressed as misshaped, discolored fruit. On some crops, such as peaches and corn, damage may not be apparent on the exterior of the fruit, and is only observed when the fruit is cut open. There is also evidence that Brown Marmorated Stink Bug can transmit microorganisms that cause some fruits, such as pepper and tomato, to rot.
Source: NC State Extension
For the most current information on BMSB research in North Carolina, visit the BMSB in NC web page.