Invasion of the stink bug: Insects are spreading to more regions across the US due to climate change
The brown marmorated stink bug, which was introduced to the United States from Asia in the mid-1990s, is spreading to more states as climate change increases temperatures across the nation.
Researchers at Washington State University found that changing weather could increase suitable habitat for the stink bug by 70 percent.
Although harmless to humans, these tiny insects feast on nearly 170 plants, including crops, endangering the country’s agricultural business.
Some states, like Washington, are already taking action against the pest with a parasitoid insect called the samurai wasp that lays its eggs inside stink bug eggs.
When the larval wasps hatch, they eat the stink bug eggs and thus prevent the population from growing.
The study looked at the locations of stink bugs over three years. It found that the insects have made a shift northwards, likely due to climate change warming temperatures
Stink bugs likely stowed away on a shipping container set to the United States, and it has since settled in 46 states — 15 of which consider the bug a pest.
Although small (smaller than a fingernail), it sucks the juice – and the life – out of fruit plants, invades people’s homes, attacks more than 100 plant species including raspberries, apples, pears, peaches and plums and is capable of destroying entire crops .
To add insult to injury, as it sucks and slurps, it often emits an odor that can best be described as a “cross between stale farts, rotting garbage and rancid almonds.”
The insects do not like cold winters and have mainly stayed in the southern region, but as climate change warms different parts of the north, they are able to make a shift north.
This was established by researchers monitoring 534 places where stink bugs thrive over three years – from 2017 to 2019.
Although small (smaller than a fingernail), it sucks the juice – and the life – out of fruit plants, invades people’s homes, attacks more than 100 plant species including raspberries, apples, pears, peaches and plums and is capable of destroying entire crops
Stink bugs were rarely found in northern states, but as of 2019, the bugs have settled as far north as Washington.
Regions that may be particularly affected include the Mid-Atlantic, areas around the Great Lakes, and valleys on the West Coast, such as the Sacramento Valley in California and the Treasure Valley in Idaho.
The team notes that because stink bugs take cover indoors during the winter, people unknowingly help them spread from state to state
The study’s lead author Javier Gutierrez Illan, an entomologist at Washington State University, said in a statement: ‘Every system will change with climate change, so the fact that you can grow garbanzo beans, lentils or wheat without these pests now does not mean that you won’t have them in a few years.
‘There are mitigating things we can do, but it is wise to prepare for change.’
There are ways to keep these pests out of your home during the winter – one is to seal any cracks in your home’s framing.
That was told by Petal Republic’s Andrew Gaumond Houses and Gardens: ‘Stink bugs often gain access to homes through small cracks and crevices between windows, doorways and exhaust vents.
Washington State University researchers found that changing weather could increase suitable habitat for the stink bug by 70 percent
“It’s wise to check the framing throughout your home and reseal where necessary with a heavy-duty silicone sealant.”
Andrew also suggests spraying insecticides around the outside of your home.
“Where possible, it’s worth spraying a store-bought pesticide or insecticide solution around the outside of your home (especially around windows and doors), which can provide some protection,” he said.
‘At the same time, pull out any vegetation you see growing from the foundation or very close to the exterior of the home.’
And another way to keep stink bugs out of your home is to change outdoor lighting.
“Stink bugs are also thought to be somewhat attracted to light sources after dark, so it’s worth turning these down when the sun goes down,” said Andrew.