“If you wanted to design a terrorist bug, it would have the features of the brown marmorated stink bug. I am working to find solutions to minimize the damage to crops this fall and in 2011. Its current classification as an unregulated pest is one barrier that I am working to address,” Bartlett concludes.

There are several different species of stink bugs causing major problems in crops, ranging from peaches to cotton. Though all are similar, managing them can be quite different.

In addition to the brown marmorated stink bug, or Asian stink bug, at least three other species are common to crops and other native host plants in the upper Southeast. Green stink bugs  (Acrosternum hilare) and Southern green stink bugs (Nezara viridula) are similar, but different. And, both greens are different from brown stink bugs (Euschistus servus). And, now there is the brown marmorated stink bug.

The brown marmorated stink bug, an insect not previously seen on our continent, was apparently accidentally introduced into eastern Pennsylvania. It was first collected in September of 1998 in Allentown, but probably arrived several years earlier. It is now widespread in New Jersey, Maryland, Delaware, West Virginia, and Virginia. Smaller populations have been detected in Mississippi, Ohio, Oregon, and California.

While the threat to crops is still evolving, the bugs are firmly entrenched as household pests, creeping into homes for warmth and turning up everywhere. When startled or challenged, the bugs emit a foul odor, similar to the smell found in stink bugs attacking crops. In large enough numbers, these new pests can make a startling noise when challenged.

According to a report by the USDA task force, the bugs caused serious damage to apple, pear and peach crops in Maryland and West Virginia last year. Other crops are at risk because the bug has a broad palate.

A few farmers and more than a few homeowners have reported that the new stink bug is immune to insecticides commonly used to manage green, Southern green and brown stink bugs.

Virginia Tech entomologist and veteran director of Virginia’s Integrated Pest Management Program, Ames Herbert, says the Asian stinkbug is, “A recently introduced pest that is expanding its range at an amazingly rapid rate. It is attacking a large number of fruit, vegetable, ornamental and row crops, and is also found on a wide variety of trees, bushes and weeds. In Virginia, it has spread into many new counties now as far south as Virginia Beach.”