Officials warn of invading stink bug

Steve Valley/ODA The brown marmorated stink bug, or Halyomorpha halys, has been found near Portland and Salem.

New pest known for causing problems in Asia, Eastern U.S.

By MATTHEW WEAVER

Capital Press

The Oregon Department of Agriculture is advising Pacific Northwest farmers to keep an eye out for insect known to cause problems in Asia and the Eastern United States.

The brown marmorated stink bug has been found around the Portland metropolitan area and specimens have been found in two different locations in Salem, said Jim LaBonte, department taxonomic and survey entomologist.

According to Merriam-Webster's Medical Dictionary, "marmorated" means "veined or streaked like marble."

While the insect does not cause damage to houses or human or pet health, it is a known pest on a wide variety of crops, LaBonte said.

"They're known to attack a huge variety of fruits," he said. "I've found them feeding on Oregon ash in very large numbers."

The insect has been known to attack peaches, nectarines, apples, grapes and Asian pears.

"These are insects with sucking mouth parts, so they insert a proboscis into the fruit or a leaf and they suck the juices of the plant out," LaBonte said.

On fruit, a corky area can be seen, with a brown tubular area where insertion occurred, which leads to blemishes on the fruit.

No crop damage has been reported yet in Oregon.

The adults reach about half an inch and tend to group together, so there will be a bunch of them together at one site, particularly in the fall when they are looking for a place to spend the winter, LaBonte said.

Based on the experiences in the East, adult and immature insects can cause problems in an orchard throughout the season.

"Because they are there so long, particularly late-season fruits have been affected," LaBonte said. "This has led to producers having to apply late-season sprays to try to protect their fruit from ongoing damage."

In several instances, there have been reports of 100 percent fruit loss.

The adults probably spread over short distances by flight, but LaBonte said they are prone to get into nooks and crannies, which makes it likely they get into vehicles or cargo.

"The main way they are getting around in the East is they hitchhike," he said.

Farmers who suspect they have the stink bug are advised to contact the Oregon department for identification. Call LaBonte at 503-986-4749.

The department is particularly interested in any sightings in an agricultural setting outside the Portland area and is awaiting the results of research into better trapping and control mechanisms in the eastern United States.

"We don't know how they are going to act here," LaBonte said. "It's a different climate, set of crops, a different landscape. All of those things could affect how these play out as being a pest."

Online

Oregon Department of Agriculture: www.oregon.gov/ODA

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