By Julie A. Martens
What’s the number one threat on the USDA invasive pest list? Brown marmorated stinkbugs (BMSB for short), which are well-established in the Mid-Atlantic and predicted to hit record-breaking levels in 2013. These large, shield-shape insects release a foul odor when agitated.
During the garden season these stinkers insert sharp, strawlike mouth parts into fruits to suck out juices. Feeding creates a corky, inedible area. In fall the bugs invade homes, sometimes by the hundreds. They’re disgusting, especially when you find one on your toothbrush or in your toaster. Ugh!
Where to Expect Stinkbugs
In the home, garden stinkbugs favor soft fruits such as tomatoes, blackberries, and raspberries. (I find them in my raspberry patch.) They also congregate around outdoor lights at night and on warm surfaces such as west-facing walls. Their populations increase as summer wears on.
If your area is plagued, plant early or determine tomato varieties to savor ripe fruit before stinkbugs arrive in force. Grape tomato ‘Juliet’ shows resistance to feeding injury.
What to Do About Stinkbugs
Learn what these insects and their eggs look like -- so you can destroy them. You’ll find great pictures of stinkbugs and their eggs here.
Traps and pheromones are the only remedies available. Even farmers can use only a few EPA-approved pesticides in cases of emergency. The best tactic is scouting your garden when it’s sunny because stinkbugs are most active in sunny weather. Carry an open container of soapy water.
When disturbed, stinkbugs react by dropping downward. Place your soapy solution beneath a bug and bump it into the suds.
Early research by the University of Maryland shows native parasites are attacking 12 to 29 percent of stinkbug eggs, so nature is helping in this battle. Follow pollinator-attracting gardening practices to lure beneficial insects to your garden.
My other stinkbug strategy is keeping a 3-ft-long stake handy. I use it to knock down or squish stinkbugs that are out of reach, for instance on the porch ceiling.
Keep up with BMSB, including new research, at www.stopbmsb.org.
Cicadas are Coming
This spring you also should watch out for Brood II of the 17-year cicadas.
Researchers expect up to 1 billion insects per square mile along a swath from Virginia to Connecticut. Find out if your area is in the target zone. Join in the buggy fun by learning how to make origami cicadas. It’s a good pastime while you’re hiding indoors from the singing bugs.