Stink bugs invade

| 15 Feb 2012 | 09:42

    Who are they, and what do they want? Goshen — If you’re having trouble with stink bugs invading your yard and home, you’re not alone. These brown marmorated (having the look of marble) insects resembling small army tanks have invaded Orange County, and in big numbers. “Judging from the calls that we have received, there are quite a few in this area,” said Debbie Lester, Community Horticulture Educator with Cornell Cooperative Extension. In fact, Cornell Cooperative Extension has monitoring traps in various areas of Orange County to get a better idea of how prevalent they are. Halyomorpha halys, commonly called “stink bug,” earned its name because it ejects a foul-smelling glandular substance when bothered by predators. Never smash a stink bug with your hands or crush it with your shoe because that releases its characteristic “stinking” odor, which lingers and is difficult to purge. During the warm fall days, stink bugs are actively looking for a place to take cover during the winter. They’re visible on window and door screens searching for an opening to crawl inside your home. Outside, they’ll find wintering spots under shakes and spaces around windows. For the most part, they are dormant during the cold months. But if winter’s freeze offers some warmer days, the bugs will be active again. They will definitely reemerge in spring. New York isn’t the only state to be plagued by stink bugs. They’ve been found in 23 other states, along with Washington D.C. Native to China, Japan, Korea and Taiwan, stink bugs were accidentally brought into this country in the mid-1990s. They were first noted in Allentown, Pa., in 1998. Besides emitting a repulsive odor, stink bugs are considered an agricultural pest because they feed on plant juices and damage crop production. Penn State Department of Entomology noted that the stink bug has become a “serious pest of fruits, vegetables and farm crops in the Mid-Atlantic region” and predicts that “it will become a pest of these commodities in other areas in the United States.” Adding to the problem is that they are resistant to many pesticides. Apples, peaches, figs, mulberries, citrus fruits, sweet corn, field corn, tomatoes, lima beans, green peppers, and soybeans are crops that have displayed stink bug damage. Up until now in Orange County, Lester noted that stink bugs caused “very little, if any damage” to crops. However, that might change and studying the monitoring traps could reveal a different story in the future. According to the Penn State study, “These insects are not known to cause harm to humans, although homeowners become alarmed when the bugs enter their homes and noisily fly about. The stink bug will not reproduce inside structures or cause damages.” The best way to rid your home of these invasive insects is to scoop them up and either bring them outdoors or flush them down the toilet. Lester cautions that if you vacuum them, change the bag immediately to keep the odor at a minimum in your home. She said the key to controlling stink bugs is to “do the best you can to prevent them from getting into your home by sealing all cracks and crevices.” However, not everyone considers stink bugs to be repulsive insects. In fact, they’re highly regarded in certain cultures, like Mexico, Vietnam, and Laos, and include them in their diets. In fact, it’s the strong odor that eaters find appealing and regard them as quite tasty. In Laos, the insects are crushed together and mixed with spices and seasonings to prepare “cheo,” a paste, which is then mixed with chilies and herbs. So, bon appetite! Or happy scooping!