Stinkbugs want to spend the winter in your house.
According to entomologists with Penn State, the brown marmorated stink bug was introduced to North America in the early '90s. Researchers believe the insect was accidentally introduced into Eastern Pennsylvania and has gradually spread throughout Northeast and, more recently, Southeast states.
The insect is considered “an agricultural pest in its native range of China, Japan, Korea and Taiwan, “ according to a fact sheet on the insect.
In Chattanooga, stinkbugs have slowly begun to infiltrate houses and businesses. Wired.com reported on the coming invasion this week.
Adults can be almost an inch long and are known to begin searching for “overwinter” sites during the early Autumn, which would explain the current infiltration of households and businesses.
Nooga.com reached out to Jeremy Bramblett, a lecturer for UTC’s Department of Biological & Environmental Sciences. He is also an avid amateur entomologist.
He answered a few pressing questions via email about the stinkbugs and offers suggestions on how to get rid of them.
Are the stinkbugs more prevalent in our region? If yes, is their presence a natural spreading of territory or are we special?
No, they are not more prevalent in our region. More than 200 species of stinkbugs are known from North America. Stinkbugs are members of the Family Pentatomidae within the Order Hemiptera or “true bugs”. They are easily observed throughout the summer feeding on plants. Tennessee is probably home to several dozen species of stinkbugs and most of them are of little or no concern to most of us.
The brown marmorated stink bug (Halyomorpha halys), originally from Asia, was initially reported from Pennsylvania in 1996 and was first collected and identified in Tennessee (Knoxville) in October 2008 by Jason R. Jones and Paris L. Lambdin of The University of Tennessee. The specimen was collected in the home of Jason R. Jones.
I know they're an "invasive" species, but are stinkbugs harmful? If so, how?
Stinkbugs are not directly harmful to humans. However, they are known to cause damage to crops that humans eat. They have damaged the fruits of apple, peach, and pear trees. They have also damaged the nuts of pecan and hazelnut trees as well as the fruits of pole beans, sweet corn, and tomatoes. So, they may cause damage to local gardens, orchards, and vegetable farms.
Explain the "stink." What is that smell?
The odor released by stinkbugs is a cocktail of chemicals that includes organic compounds like aldehydes and esters. These chemicals are produced by glands located on the stinkbug’s thorax, nearly a dozen different chemicals have been identified from the metathoracic glands of one species of stinkbug from Brazil. These chemicals are technically referred to as allomones and are more commonly referred to as defense or alarm chemicals. The chemical cocktail is often unpleasant, very strong smelling, and may even be irritating to the natural predators of stinkbugs. I’m unaware of any harmful effects to humans caused by the release of these chemicals by stinkbugs—it’s simply unpleasant. It’s not an odor one would turn into a cologne or perfume.
I have stinkbugs in my home. What can I do about them? I've read to just vacuum them?
Sure, vacuuming will certainly work, just be sure to dispose of the contents in a sealed bag or they will escape and may reinvade your home. I have been hand collecting the individuals that have recently entered my own home. Some of those specimens are now a part of my personal insect collection. They are pinned and labeled and in one of my collection boxes. The best way to keep them out of your home is to use weather stripping around your doors, screen your windows and vents, and also seal any cracks around your windows with caulk.
Are they going away? Or are they here to stay? Should we expect to see less of them in the winter months?
I doubt very seriously that they are going to go away. Most of us become aware of them when they attempt to enter our homes around windows and doors during the fall. They are attracted to the heat radiating from doors and windows on cool days and nights. They are simply seeking shelter from the cooler weather and if they get into your home they will overwinter and reemerge during spring. Various departments of agriculture across the country are working on control methods. For example, at least four species of parasitic wasps have been imported from Asia and are being tested as control insects. One of these species has been shown to kill up to 70 percent of the eggs of this species of stinkbug in China. So, if one of these predatory wasps becomes established and prefers this species of stinkbug as a food source, we may see numbers decrease over the next several years.
Any other invasive insects we should watch out for in the coming years?
Yes, we should expect to see more invasive insect species within Tennessee. As global trade increases, the likelihood of unintended insect importation also increases. In some cases these accidently introduced insects will cause significant economic damage to crops. Agricultural researchers will develop various means of control and we may eventually see numbers decrease. Within the last 10 or 15 years Tennessee has been invaded by red imported fire ants from South America, granulate ambrosia beetle from Asia, and emerald ash borer from China, just to name a few.
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