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home : most recent : statewide implications October 18, 2018

10/4/2018 5:32:00 PM
Yes, you're seeing a lot more stink bugs right now

Ryan Reynolds, Evansville Courier & Press Online News Editor

EVANSVILLE -- Move over, hover flies. There's a new pest here to bother us in the late summer and early fall.

Meet the brown marmorated stink bug, that odd-looking insect you've no doubt seen crawling along your window sill. Or your kitchen counter. Or your car's dashboard. Or ... or ... or ... 

Yeah, they're everywhere. And it didn't used to be this way. 

The brown marmorated stink bug made its way to America from Asia in the 1990s.

A huge problem, according to Purdue University entomology professor Christian Krupke, is that the the bug's predator didn't come along.

So now?

"It's a free-for-all," Krupke said. "When you bring over the bug but not the predator, you get this population boom."

The bug's most effective predators in Asia are parasitoid wasps that lay eggs inside stink bug eggs so that the infant wasps kill the stink bugs before birth. But these same wasps would also attack less harmful stink bugs, disrupting the ecosystem, according to officials.

The bugs are harmless to humans ("unless you eat them," Krupke said with a chuckle) and won't hurt your pets unless your dog or cat consume them, and "that'll probably only happen once," Krupke joked.

The "stink" part of the bug's name comes from a strong chemical it produces and then emits from its abdomen. It's unpleasant.

"(The chemical) could be pretty rough on the mucus membranes," Krupke said.

The bigger issue is the bug's effect on crops. They can damage everything from corn and apples to grapes and tomatoes. Soybeans and other legumes are especially susceptible, Krupke said. 

They're in houses this time of year for the same reason you are: warmth. They spend the winters indoors, sometimes by the thousands. 

"The best thing you can do is to have your house well-sealed," Krupke said. "I live in an older home so I have a load of stink bugs and a load of ladybugs. They'll find gaps near windows, in soffits, wherever they can get in and they'll get in."

The other headache? There's really no way to get rid of them permanently without natural predators. You can kill them by the hundreds but more will arrive to take their place.

Purdue officials say stink bugs can removed from homes manually and "dropped into a container of soapy water ... this not only kills them but offers relief from their disagreeable odor." You can also use a vacuum cleaner or the old-fashioned dustpan-and-broom combination to get them out of the house.

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Editor, John C. DePrez Jr.; Executive Editor, Carol Rogers; Publishers: IBRC and IAR

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