Taking emergency measures, the Environmental Protection Agency has approved two insecticides to control the brown marmorated stink bug, which has caused untold losses to fruit trees and crops in the mid-Atlantic region. An invasive species, the stink bug has no known predator in this country so growers have been seeking ways to rid their crops of the destructive insect. Included in the approval is an insecticide that can be used by organic farmers.
In what it calls an emergency exemption, the EPA approved the insecticide dinotefuran (trade names Venom and Scorpion) for emergency use in Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, North Carolina and New Jersey. Under the exemption, producers of stone fruit (such as peaches, plums and cherries) and pome fruit (including apples and pears) are allowed use two applications of dinotefuran per season. In a related decision, the EPA approved an insecticide for organic farmers that contains azadirachtin and pyrethrins, which are derived from botanical ingredients.
The stink bug is native to Asia and was discovered in Pennsylvania in 1998, according to entomologists at Penn State University. Since then the bug has been found in at least 33 states where it's become a threat to fruit and other crops. “Some growers have lost their entire crop to stink bug infestations,” Kim Hoelmer, a research entomologist at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, told U.S.A. Today.
Last summer millions of the inch-long bugs not only feasted on crops but invaded homes, especially in the mid-Atlantic region. Homeowners resorted to shoveling up the swarms and carting them away in buckets, or vacuuming them up. But because the stink bugs emit an odor when crushed or irritated, removing them with a vacuum cleaner can ruin a good machine. Better to buy a wet-dry vac for that purpose.
“The feeling in the bug world is this is the worst bug we’ve seen in 40 years,” Michael J. Raupp, an entomologist at the University of Maryland, told the New York Times. “It eats peaches and grapes and soybeans. It’s annihilated organic growers who can’t use pesticides. And guess what? After it eats your crops, it comes inside your home. I’ve never seen another bug do that.”
—Mary H.J. Farrell