Stinkbugs

Infamous recently traveled to the Garden State, New Jersey, for a family get-together. It was not too long before I saw my first stinkbug flying around. My relatives told me the Marmorated Stinkbug Halyomorpha halus, has become a pest to crops and homeowners in new Jersey in 2010. The stinkbugs were so prevalent in the fall, they congregated on the sunny exterior walls of the house sunbathing. As the weather became cooler, they infiltrated into homes and come flying around lazily even in winter.

This is not too different from ladybugs and many other casual home invaders. They come seeking shelter as winter closes in. Some species come in by the thousands and have to be vaccuumed up. The stinkbugs were found all aver the window sills making quite a mess.

Stinkbugs as a group are members of the true bug family, the Hemiptera. The word Hemiptera means half-wing in Latin. They hold the wings over their back in a characteristic crosswise fashion, making the appearance of an “X”. Their wings are half heavy leathery upper parts and clear, veined lower tips. They usually have a broad shoulder look to the collar behind the head. Once you see a few examples of insects in this Order, it is easy to classify Hemiptera whenever you see them because of the big “X” on their backs.

This particular species is an exotic import from China and was first found in Allenton, Pennsylvania in 1998. Rutgers University first trapped some in 2000, so they are successfully spreading. In Japan and China they are responsible for damaging soybeans, corn, green beans and many types of fruit. They have a piecing mouthpart that pokes into the plant and allows them to suck juices out. They make numerous tiny holes all over the plant they are feeding on and cause damage to the fruits especially by wounding the ripening fruit. So far this insect has spread into several states on the east coast and seems destined to keep going across the country.

When an insect comes to our country from another environment, it leaves behind the natural checks and balances that keep it under control in its home. The diseases and predators that attack it either are not present in the new home or need several years to ramp up their levels to control the population. Apparently in its native country several predatory spiders, wasps and other insects are known to feed on them.

This story is just another reminder that imported goods from other countries may harbor hitch hikers that can cause damage to our agricultural crops. Good shipping practices are essential to avoid scenarios like this.

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