by Dana Santasiero
There’s a new bug in Western New York and there are two main things you need to know about it.
First, the brown marmorated stink bug (BMSB) is called a stink bug because when you step on it, it smells.
Second, it could eat the plants in your garden.
The good news is even though it is big and ugly, it won’t hurt you. You might find it in your house over the winter but it’ll just be a nuisance.
What is the the brown marmorated stink bug?
The full name is Halyomorpha halys (Stål).
It is a large bug that is around the size of your finger nail. The BMSB is shaped liked a shield and is colored in a mix of browns.
If it is in your house, you will notice how loud it is when it’s flying, especially when it bumps into a window.
After being squished or aggravated the bug gives off an odd citrusy scent that gives it its name “stink bug.” It is not the worst smell, but the scent lingers for a couple of hours.
The BMSB just arrived in Western New York in 2010, said Wayne K. Gall, Ph.D, the regional entomologist for the New York State Department of Health.
To distinguish it from other stink bugs, look for the lighter bands around the antennae.
What will brown marmorated stink bugs do to your garden?
“Unfortunately they are a general feeder,” said John Farfaglia, extension educator with Cornell Cooperative Extension in Niagara County.
They will eat the foliage and fruits on crops such as peaches, apples, pears, grapes, blackberries, strawberries, sweet and field corn, squash, tomatoes, lima beans, green peppers and soybeans.
They are not causing damage to most ornamental plants such as roses and perennials, according to Farfaglia. They are known to feed on the seed pods of some trees but not the ones in your garden. The trees that have been affected are the tree of heaven, which is considered a weed.
Since they are so new to our area it is hard to predict the damage they may cause. As of right now BMSB has not done any significant damage to crops and plants in Western New York, Farfaglia said. Their population is still limited; however if the population grows they may cause an issue for local gardeners and farmers.
“We’re not sure what the extent of damage is going to be,” said Farfgalia. “We are dealing with it for the first time.”
How to protect your plants from the brown marmorated stink bug
There is only one solution known to deal with the BMSB, Farfaglia said. It is pyrethrum, a botanical insecticide. (A botanical insecticide is made up of insect toxins extracted from plants or minerals.)
The time to apply pyrethum is during the early growing season (spring) because that is when BMSB are beginning to mate. The nymph (immature) stage of these bugs is when they are the most susceptible to insecticides.
Once the gardening season comes closer again, Cornell Cooperative Extension may have a list of more insecticides that could potentially work, he said.
If this stink bug is in your house
Besides being a pest in our gardens, the BMSB has found its way into many of our homes for the winter.
At this point it is more noticable in our homes than gardens.
“It’s not crop damage right now, it is a nuisance problem,” said Farfgalia.
While in our homes they do not cause any damage. BMSB mate only outside during the spring and early summer so you don’t have to worry about an infestation.
The BMSB usually enter a home through small cracks and holes along windows and doors. In order to keep these critters out, make sure you tightly seal all the cracks and little holes that lead to the outdoors before the cold makes it way into Western New York.
You may happen to see a BMSB crawling on your window or door since they are attracted to the warmth of sunlight. Squishing it can lead to an unsavory scent to linger for a couple of hours.To get rid of the bug, you can vacuum it up. If the weather outside is freezing, you can simply open the window or door and brush it outside.
See updated information
See this article from May 3, 2016 in Buffalo-NiagaraGardening.com for more information on the brown marmorated stink bug.