Be ready for the stinkbug invasion

Stinkbugs leave a powerful impression. As I began writing this story, I started smelling one that I searched for — in vain. Hopefully, you’ll also search for it in vain in your orchards and fields during the fast-coming growing season.

But Cooperative Extension and USDA entomologists in Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Virginia anticipate a season-long siege of brown marmorated stinkbugs, or BMSB, this year. And for fruit crops in particular, the best-performing insecticide may not gain a Section 18 federal label until midsummer.

Key Points

Working group anticipates stinkbugs to be a major pest this year.

Section 18 emergency-use label may not arrive until midsummer.

Scouting, traps and knockdowns are the only weapons of choice.


Crop scouting recommendations for BMSB published in the March issue, haven’t changed.

Most insecticides labeled for stinkbugs in row crops are knockdowns with little residual activity. That’s a major handicap in fruit crops. And, the pesticides may disrupt integrated pest management strategies.

Elevated to ‘crisis critter’

BMSB will pose a season-long threat, warns Tracy Leskey, co-leader of the national working group of USDA, Extension and industry. Last fall, she and other fruit researchers discovered extensive fruit damage in September and October. Some injuries were not detected at harvest, but showed up later in cold storage.

Leskey, a USDA Agricultural Research Service entomologist at Kearneysville, W.Va., adds that egg masses from overwintering adults will start appearing in late May in peaches, and in early June in apples. Newly hatched nymphs will be easiest to control with insecticides.

In fruit orchards, bait monitors along the periphery or in border rows will detect migration from wild areas. On-ground black traps have proven substantially better at attracting BMSB than white or yellow, according to the researchers. To build or buy stinkbug traps, go to www.potomacaudubon.org/2011stinkbugs.html.

Stinkbugs are most active at night. That’s why Leskey advises spraying in the evening or at night.

Chris Bergh, Extension entomologist at Virginia Tech, is the lead scientist applying for a Section 18 label for dinotefuran neonicotinoid insecticide (one brand name is Venom). It’s one of the most effective products evaluated by the working group.

Valent’s Venom and Gowan’s Scorpion are labeled for brassicas, cucurbits, grapes, potatoes and vegetables, but not fruit crops. Bergh says that the bug kill rate with Scorpion, for example, increased as rates rose from 3.4 to 7.7 ounces per acres.

That was in lab tests. “It’s untested in orchards,” he adds.

The dinotefuran products are used to control stinkbugs in Asia. But label rates in Japan, he notes, are substantially higher than in the United States.

Bottom line: Below-label rates may provide below-expectation results. And Bergh concludes: “They aren’t magic bullets.”

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BUG UGLY! Now you know how “bug ugly” came to be. Brown marmorated stinkbugs are ugly anywhere you find them. And you may smell them before you see them.

This article published in the May, 2011 edition of AMERICAN AGRICULTURIST.

All rights reserved. Copyright Farm Progress Cos. 2011.