We have some overwintering house guests in our attic crawlspace and I'm on a full fledged killing spree. Whenever I see one, I squish it violently under my shoe or flush it. I'm an equal opportunity Brown Marmorated Stink Bug murderer. I'm on high alert because they eat over 400 different species of plants including my edibles and overwintering females will lay their 30 light green eggs this spring…in my garden.
Last October, when I started painting our pergola, a large group or aggregate of Brown Marmorated Stink Bugs gathered on the South side of our house and all over the pergola. There were hundreds of them, if not a thousand, frolicking in our back garden. They crowded around our screened vents under the eaves and skittered all over the pergola as I painted it a lovely shade of gray purple called Supernova that I've seen my talented friend, Anna, use. And whenever I flicked a Brown Marmorated Stink Bug out of the way of my paint brush, it would fly in a big loop and smack me in the head like a big bully. Then I'd curse. We fell into a nice rhythm of flick, smack, curse as I painted the three coats. A stranger suggested that I should have just painted over them to add texture to the project. Can you imagine that?
As a WSU Master Gardener volunteer I have answered countless questions about the Brown Marmorated Stink Bug and how to identify them from our beneficial native stink bugs. In fact, we saw so many of them in the MG answer clinic that I wood-burned wooden spoons with them as a gag gift for a couple of fellow garden friends. I don't find these spoons nearly as amusing since the bugs took up residence here.
The trick to identifying a Brown Marmorated Stink Bug, Halyomorpha hales, is to look at the shoulders, they should be smooth and the legs and antenna have dark and light bands. Look at this WSU Extension Fact Sheet for more detailed identification information. Once you have identified it as a Brown Marmorated Stink Bug, smash or drown it. No known pesticides are known to work effectively against them. And hormone traps do work, but who wants to attract more of these bugs into their garden? I sure don't. The bugs' natural predators are currently being studied to make sure they wouldn't decimate the populations of our beneficial native stink bugs.
The Brown Marmorated Stink Bug first arrived in Pennsylvania from Asia in 1998. It has spread through our country devouring apples, berries, peaches, tomatoes, grapes, and soybeans and causing major financial harm to farms. This year could be the year that they start to harm Washington's wine grapes. These bugs can fly up to 40 miles in a day and catch rides with cars and trains. Our local orchard, Joe's Place Farms, lost almost half of their Granny Smith Apple crop last summer to the Brown Marmorated Stink Bug.
On an encouraging note, some orchardists have found some success using a product called Surround which is a kaolin clay powder that cherry growers in Hood River use. You can order it online in quantities for a home gardener. In the meantime, I'm going to smash or drown the Brown Marmorated Stink Bugs that I find, while carefully protecting the native stink bugs that eat other pests that attack my garden.
Do you have problems with Brown Marmorated Stink Bugs in your garden?