With the holiday season in gear, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service entomologists are urging travelers to be wary of a new species of unwelcome six-legged hitchhikers itching to become "full-time Texans."
"We're working to raise awareness about the brown marmorated stink bug in Texas," says Bill Ree, AgriLife Extension entomologist at College Station. "This pest is hitting some states hard. It's a great hitchhiker which is probably one, if not the main reason, it has spread to so many states. Adults seeking overwintering sites tend to get in recreational vehicles, travel trailers, etc."
Ree warns that the pest can cause lasting foul smells in homes and other confines, plus cause major damage to a wide variety of crops and plants.
"So far, we've only had one firmed in Texas," Ree says. "That single find November at Corpus Christi was from a pest control operator investigating a stink bug infestation in a trailer or RV that had been moved to Corpus from Pennsylvania.
"That's why we want the public, pest control operators, and those in the landscape industry to be aware that we really want to know about possible sites before they escalate as they have elsewhere. New detections in Texas will more likely come from this group of folks, rather than an agricultural 'bug scout' in the middle of a soybean field."
Wizzie Brown, AgriLife Extension urban entomologist at Austin, says the pest is not a health threat to people or animals, but she does see the potential for the insect to become a problem in a variety of outdoor settings.
Charles Allen, AgriLife Extension entomologist, San Angelo, says populations in Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, and West Virginia and other states have built up to high levels as they feed on apples, peaches, and other fruits.
"Our main concerns among Texas field crops are soybeans, pecans, and possibly cotton," Allen says.
Samples should include the name and contact information of the sender, the location the bug was found, and the plant or place where it was found. Ree says specimens should be put in something like a pill bottle (preferably dead) and sent to: Kira Metz, Minnie Belle Heep Building 216D, 2475 TAMU, College Station, TX 77843-2475.