Friday, December 7, 2012

Brown Marmorated Stink Bugs

Brown marmorated stink bugs (BMSB) were confirmed in Corpus Christi, TX in late 2011.  These insects are a new pest to Texas and a relatively new pest to the United States.  They are a true bug with piercing-sucking mouthparts and they have a large list of plants that they may feed upon including numerous ornamentals, vegetables and fruits.  These stink bugs are shield-shaped, about 5/8 inch and mottled brown in color.  The last two antennal segments have alternating light and dark bands.  The edges of the abdomen, which are exposed from above, also have alternating light and dark bands.

BMSB usually cause small necrotic areas by feeding on plant tissue, but they may also cause stippling, seed loss or transmit diseases.  Damage to fruit can be scarring, pitting, catfacing and sometimes changing the texture to be more mealy or grainy.  Not only do these bugs attack many high value crops, but they can also be a nuisance pest and move into homes when temperatures drop.

We have been doing work with the media lately to encourage people across Texas to report suspected infestation of BMSB.  If you suspect that you have seen brown marmorated stink bugs in the Austin area, please collect a sample and send it to Texas A&M AgriLife Extension for confirmation.  Recent media includes a story on AgriLife Today and a spot on KXAN.  For images of the stink bug, see this publication.

As for management strategies for BMSB, many pesticides that we currently have available don't work very well for managing populations of this particular insect.  In backyard situations, stink bugs can be hand-picked from plants (wear leather gloves) and dunked into a bucket of hot, soapy water.  It may also be possible to vacuum stink bug populations from plants or other surfaces. 

To keep stink bugs out of the home follow these ideas:

  • Install weather stripping around loose fitting doors and windows (if you can see daylight around a door during the day then the weather stripping should be replaced).
  • Block weep holes in homes with a brick or stone facade with steel wool or copper mesh (use copper on light colors since steel wool will rust if it gets wet).
  • Use caulk or expanding foam to fill in cracks and crevices on the outside of the home and around pipe and wire penetrations.
  • Keep window screens in good repair.
  • Use stainless steel mesh wire to block access points in the attic (vents, etc.). 

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