America has a stink bug problem, which comes as a surprise to many people who had previously only thought of stink bugs as minor annoyances. The fact is that stink bug populations are on the rise all over the country. They are wreaking havoc among crops and causing people to go to extreme measures to rid themselves of these odd pests. Here are some stink bug facts to help familiarize you with the newest public enemy number one.
What Do Stink Bugs Eat?
Stink bugs are mostly herbivorous, which means they eat vegetable matter, especially things humans like to grow. Some stink bugs are predatory and eat other insects, but these are not the ones causing such problems. Herbivorous stink bugs use their specialized mouth parts to pierce the stems of plants and the skins of fruits to suck out the vital sap and juices. This ultimately will kill the plant and make the fruit rot. Stink bugs were directly attributable to New England’s apple growers showing a loss of $37 million in 2010.
What Attracts Stink Bugs
Like all creatures, stink bugs navigate with their senses. They naturally are drawn by scent, taste and sight to their food sources. They also love warmth and light and have been known to charge lamps and campfires like moths do. Stink bugs will follow light and heat to a human home when the outside temperatures drop. They come in to breed and to hibernate, making themselves at home everywhere they can. Once inside they can be a constant pest as they are encouraged by the constant warm temperature to breed and seek food instead of hibernating.
Do Stink Bugs Bite?
Stink bugs don’t have proper “mouths” like we are used to. A stink bug’s mouth part is called a rostrum and is similar to that of a mosquito or butterfly, meaning it is hollow and tube-like. This allows the stink bug to “inject” its rostrum into a fruit or other vegetation and suck out the juices from the plant. Although stink bugs have been known to prick with their rostra when handled the sensation is no worse than a pinprick and has no potential for damage. Most people who claim to have been bitten by a stink bug most likely were pricked or snagged by the stink bug’s barbed leg joints.
Green Stink Bugs
The green stink bug is a widespread domestic pest. It is like other members of its family in its shield-like shape and five-segmented antennae, but it is a light green in color all over. There are two varieties which are distinguished by their habitats: one prefers cooler northern climates while the other prefers warm southern ones. Green stink bugs are voracious eaters which are hated by farmers for their tendency to blight fruit crops and kill young plants. These stink bugs have a natural predator in the parasitic tachinid fly and certain birds who can tolerate the bugs’ stench.
Brown Stink Bugs
Many stink bugs are brown and almost all are pests, but the main one is the brown marmorated stink bug. This pest actually hails from Asia and likely found its way to America in ships from China and South Korea. In the past five years it has gained a firm foothold in the U.S. and begun devastating crops and annoying homeowners with their large numbers and invasive indoor habits. The brown marmorated stink bug is troublesome since it has almost no natural predators in the U.S. and is highly-resistant to pesticides. These are the responsible parties for most of the recent infestations.
Stink bugs are a problem which no one really anticipated in the United States but must be dealt with realistically. Scientists and pest control companies are working hard to combat the stink bug menace, but real progress is only just now being seen in areas of control and elimination. For now people need to try to keep them out of their homes and gardens the best they can and look forward to the day when better methods are available.
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