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Stinkbugs Spreading Their Wings in Michigan and Other Parts of the Country

April 18, 2011

LANSING, Mich. - This spring marks a big coming-out party for stink bugs. The potentially smelly pests, which didn't even exist in this country twenty years ago, are spreading from Pennsylvania to more and more parts of the country, including Michigan, says National Wildlife Federation (NWF) senior scientist Doug Inkley.

"The brown marmorated stink bug is an invasive species from another part of the world; it's actually from China or Japan. Somehow, around the turn of the century, it found its way into eastern Pennsylvania, and in the last 10 or 12 years the population has just exploded."

Inkley says the stink bug has a sort of freedom to roam in the U.S., because none of its predators are here. He says research is being done to see if it might be possible to safely introduce such a predator.

"Under study right now is a very small parasitic wasp, about the size of a gnat. It's non-stinging. It lays its eggs in the eggs of the brown marmorated stink bug and might be able to help control the population that way."

Inkley says the stink bug dilemma brings to light the need to take steps to head off invasive species before they take root.

"No longer allowing wooden pallets to be used; those are often a source of insects getting into the country. It could require, perhaps, a longer quarantine period of products when they come into the country, so that perhaps whatever pests they're carrying would die."

Stink bugs don't bite or sting, but when disturbed, they emit a smell some liken to that of the herb called cilantro. Inkley says more serious than the aroma is the agricultural damage stink bugs do by laying their eggs in spring on the undersides of leaves. He says stink bugs can wipe out crops ranging from apples to peaches, and even tomatoes.

The Michigan Department of Agriculture announced in February that it has confirmed the presence of the pest in Berrien and Eaton Counties in the south end of the state. Officials say pests such as the stink bug pose a serious threat to the economic health of Michigan's $71.3 billion agri-food industry and its 53,000 farmers.

Amy Miller/Laura Thornquist, Public News Service - MI