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Thursday, September 9, 2010

Backyard Farming Disasters – Stink Bug Apocalypse

 We have an apocalypse now - the Brown Marmorated Stink Bug. It is a plague of biblical proportions here in western Maryland. This bug is an invasive species that is native to China and accidentally introduced here. It is called a stink bug because when irritated or excited it releases a foul smelling chemical reminiscent of cilantro (no one eats cilantro here anymore). It inserts its rostrum (tube like beak) into plants and sucks out the juice or sap. It leaves fruit with a mottled appearance and the fruit quickly spoils. Here is the kicker – it has no natural predator, it is resistant to pesticides and since it loves all types of plants, there are no effective decoy plants.
We have a fruit industry here, primarily apples and peaches. This bug is destroying the crops and may drive our farmers out of business. Our local vegetable farms are suffering too. There has been a big meeting of farmers, USDA scientists and Extension specialists to discuss the problem. The problem extends beyond the farms to everyone. Our garden is pretty much finished for the year because of stinkbugs. And soon the plague will move indoors. The outdoor surface of the sunny side of the house appears to move as thousands of bugs congregate. These bugs then get through the tiniest cracks to infest a house for the winter. There are no effective pesticides for home use. You can’t vacuum them because the smell is intolerable and attracts more stink bugs. You caulk and seal them out the best you can and then it turns into a pitched one-on-one battle indoors. You take a jar half full of water with detergent added to sequester the smell. You go around and knock them into the jar. I am lucky because I am tall and can reach the ceiling. I click the jar on the ceiling around the bug and it drops in. I click the jar under the bug on a wall and it drops in. When an inch of dead bugs accumulates in the jar, I dump them outside and then start over. After I have eliminated one army of bugs, I wait awhile until another army appears and the battle resumes. 

I can only assume that this plague will spread nationwide. It is humbling to realize that after we do all we can to develop and deploy our production methods, whether they be organic, conventional, sustainable, industrial, or integrated pest management, in the end we are at the mercy of nature and may not have solutions to serious problems.

Here are some pictures from the University of Maryland  Extension Home and Garden Information Center


Dale


11 comments:

MAYBELLINE said...

Wow. I thought I was dealing with a wave of squash bugs in my pumpkin patch. First thing in the morning, I need to go out and re-check. Thanks for this important news.

Rachel said...

Yep, we've got them on the other coast as well. At first I tried giving them to my chickens. No go. They wanted nothing to do with them. Now I just kill them on the spot when I see them. Of course here it doesn't *seem* nearly as bad, but we have mild winters so they don't need to come inside.

nese said...

We spent all spring working like fools to convert an old tennis court into a raised bed/hale bale garden. In June it was beatutiful, by July it was destroyed by these pests. All our organic methods failed miserably. A crushing disappointment.

motherhen68 said...

We have them every year. I hate stinkbugs. They love tomatoes, get on them and turn them blotchy. 7 dust does work, but sheesh, I try not to use chemicals. Mostly, I ignore them. Thank goodness they don't try to come inside. We get an infestation of lady bugs in December. They come in on the Christmas tree.

katiegirl said...

We have them here on the Eastern Shore of MD too. :-( They infested my squash the worst.

Farm Girl said...

I am in California and they are killing my pumpkins and they had already wiped out the squash months ago, Now I will make sure they haven't started coming in the house.
Thanks for the info. I knew I had never seen that kind before.

Amy Olson said...

These evil little guys took over my tomatoes early this year in Texas. The best way I know to get rid of them is to use the dust buster in my tiny garden. Suck them up one at a time off of the plants....it is oddly satisfying after watching so many tomatoes get punctured with a zillion little holes. However, I can see how difficult this would be if you have more than 6 plants!

Amy @ Homestead Revival said...

Wow! Scary! I've seen one or two, but I've not been too alarmed or even bothered with them. You can be sure I'll kill any I see here on out! Hopefully, before they get out of control!

Becky said...

We have them here in Manitoba, too. The summer's short enough that they don't do the cover the house act, but they do make blotches on my tomatoes and they deformed my Swiss Chard fairly intensely. I didn't know what they were, thank you so much for the information.

Quinn said...

Thanks for the heads up- we had none this morning and the kids have killed about 10 in the last hour. I remembered this post so now at least I know what we could be in for. After reading the comments, I do remember seeing a bunch on that last zucchini we were leaving to see how big it would get.

Anonymous said...

they are terrible here in catskills ny they are coming in home like roaches ...send them all back to china..