Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Brown Marmorated Stink Bug Becomes My Problem

Elderberry juice for the stinkbugs means less elderberry juice
for the berries
If you live in Maryland, New York, or Pennsylvania, you've heard about the great stinkbug invasion.  Chances are, your house itself has been invaded on warm fall or spring days, as hibernating stinkbugs wake up....eventually they fly off somewhere else, probably to my house.
And if you're in the conservation or agriculture industries, you've heard all of this doom-and-gloom stuff about how this invasive bug will destroy fruit, vegetable, bean, and grain crops.  Sounds bad, but I had no frame of reference personally.  Now I do. They are here.  All year long, for the first time.

Our yard is full of mostly native shrubs that I've planted for wildlife over the last seven years.  Some of them have neat stories behind them, like the black elderberry above, which was rescued from a construction site, and others have actual history behind them, like the Redbud a few pictures below, which was given to me by my wife's grandfather just before he passed away in 2005.  So while I don't douse my shrubs in chemicals, I treat them well.  I like them. 

I noticed a bunch of terminal bud damage and leaf burn last week...lo and behold, this spring's stinkbugs decided to stick around.  In July, most shrubs are pushing energy and plant juices UP from the roots to the tips of the plants for fruit production and the production of next spring's flowers in some cases.  This is a perfect feeding opportunity for the stinkbug, which eats plant juices.  Like many "bad" insects, the stinkbugs are difficult to find because when they sense a predator's presence, they immediately go to the underside of the leaf they were feeding on.

I also wanted to show you what early stinkbug damage looks like.  This redbud has lost turgor, or cell pressure, in the outer margins of this leaf. That's because Ol' Stinky has sucked the plant juices out, resulting in "leaf roll." Check it out:

As the feeding continues, something happens physiologically to the leaves and nearby buds (or immature fruit) - it just dies.  Here's what advanced leaf damage from stinkbug feeding looks like on a lilac bush:

So........I sprayed for the first time this year.  I'm sure it's bad for the bees and so many other beneficial insects, but I just can't stand the thought of losing multiple plants to this invasive bug.  I don't yet know what the best insecticide is for them, so I won't hazard a guess.  But if you've read this far - look at the photos again - at least you can  know if the stinkbugs have decided to take up residence in your yard, forest, orchard, or garden.  Good luck!


Unknown said...

Try 7 dust. Works on most varmits.

Kirk Mantay said...

Ha! Sevindust will kill EVERYTHING.

EPA keeps lowering the allowable % of poison in it just because it "kills people" and "causes cancer," and is a "well documented carcinogen," but until about a year ago, I had an old mason jar full of 20-year old sevindust that was about 4x as strong as the current formula.

I'd save it as a last resort, to save a plant from complete loss. But alas, it's all gone now.

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