Brown marmorated stink bug poses threat to local crops

by: PHOTO COURTESY OF OSU - The brown marmorated stink bug could be the next non-native pest to seriously affect Oregon specialty crops, said Chip Bubl, Oregon State Universitys Agricultural Extension agent based in St. Helens. A new insect to Oregon is affecting fruits and vegetables in Columbia County, and its numbers are growing.

After first being detected in Oregon in 2004, the exotic brown marmorated stink bug has established itself as an invasive pest in the state.

“They are showing some definite, severe problems on some apples, pears and quite a few other fruits,” said Chip Bubl, Oregon State University’s Agricultural Extension agent based in St. Helens. “This is probably our first year of visible, significant injury. It’s going to be a problem.”

Bubl said the bug isn’t totally new to North America but is not a native insect. The brown marmorated stink bug is native to China, Korea and Japan and was first detected in the eastern United States in 1994. Between 1994 and 2010, the pest caused more than $37 million in damages to Middle Atlantic apple crops, according to the OSU Department of Horticulture.

“I think it’s one of those things where it gets introduced in modest numbers,” Bubl said. “If highly adapted in the landscape, with few or no predators, sooner or later they’ll take off.”

Bubl said the bug has the ability to cut into more fruits than typical pests.

The bug has shown an appetite for more than 100 different crops, Bubl said. The alert of the new pest comes at a time critical for the harvest of many crops, including raspberries, blueberries, apples, pears, hazelnuts, grapes, sweet corn, peppers and beans, according to OSU researchers.

At this time, OSU researchers have not calculated economic damages caused by the pest and currently have not developed a plan to eradicate the bugs.

“Their timing is weird, we don’t totally know what to do yet,” Bubl said. Bubl added that broad-spectrum insecticides are a possible route to mitigate the problem, but not an ideal solution.

Bubl said the presence of the stink bug comes at a time when fruit tree growers are still adjusting to the challenges posed by the spotted wing distrophila, a fly that arrived in the country in 2008 and is now widespread throughout the Willamette Valley and Columbia Gorge.

Bubl said normal fruit flies need injured tissue to get into fruit, but the spotted wing distrophila can penetrate most soft fruits and lay eggs regardless of the fruit’s condition.

“A lot of people ate a lot of maggots this year and didn’t know about it,” Bubl laughed.

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