A big caveat is that this area of Virginia isn’t a large soybean producing area, creating some doubts this strategy will hold up, if these bugs move farther south into larger fields in areas where soybean production is more widespread.

Though researchers in Virginia and North Carolina are just now getting geared up for wide-scale studies of the brown marmorated stink bug, one characteristic is particularly troublesome. Initial studies indicate these pests pack a much bigger damage punch on soybeans.

Herbert says early tests indicate these insects create more puncture wounds per seed pod than do commonly occurring native stink bugs.

“Fortunately, the part of our state in which these bugs have attacked soybeans isn’t in an area with lots of soybeans. However, where we have found them in soybeans, the damage has been significant, and it appears bug for bug the Asian stink bug packs a bigger punch,” Herbert says.

The Virginia researcher got an early introduction to the brown marmorated stink bug via some research done by former graduate student Amanda Kopple. Though some of her work with parasitic wasps looked promising for managing brown marmorated stink bugs, Herbert says so far researchers have made little progress in finding a biological management tool for the new pest.

Though the Asian stink bugs are already an economically damaging pest, the potential for damage is enormous if it continues to move southward.

For starters, it’s over-wintering capabilities could be enhanced as it moves into a climate more typical of its native habitat in China.

A potentially devastating problem with the southward movement of the Asian stink bug is the Southeast’s cotton crop. Damage in home gardens shows okra to be a favorite host crop for these bugs and okra is closely kin to cotton.

Another potential cropping disaster, Herbert contends, is with pecans. We suspect these bugs will feed on pecans and they have the ability to penetrate immature nuts. Managing a pest like this in pecan trees would be a real nightmare, he notes.

For farmers in Virginia and the Carolinas, perhaps the best news is these imported stink bugs have definitely caught the attention of entomologists. As a group, Virginia-Carolina entomologists have a good track record of working together to find economically desirable management methods for a wide-ranging number of insect pests.

The brown marmorated stink bug is a real pest, but it may have a hard time coping with the array of management tools about to be thrown at it.

rroberson@farmpress.com