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Invasive agricultural pest really stinks

The brown marmorated stinkbug has been found in Minnesota, but though it has the potential to be damaging to local agriculture, a U of M entomologist says we don’t have to worry right away.

June 1, 2011
By Steve Browne , Marshall Independent

When we say the world is getting smaller, we're thinking how much easier it is for us to travel the world now, we seldom realize it applies to pests as well.

The brown marmorated stink bug came from Asia in 2001 to enjoy the good life in America, and now it's made its way to Minnesota.

To add insult to injury, it first showed up in the St. Paul laboratory of the Minnesota Department of Agriculture last November.

According to Michael Schommer, communications director at the MDA, the stink bug was found in a shipment of lab equipment. Packing crates are a common way bugs hitch rides around the world.

"It's a bug that's been in Minnesota on a limited basis," Schommer said, "but it's been causing significant problems over the country. Clearly they're arriving in some assisted way. These days the world is so connected with shipping."

Invasive insect species have taken an economic toll on agriculture in southern Minnesota.

According to Bruce Potter, integrated pest management specialist at the University of Minnesota Extension office in Lamberton, the European corn borer, alfalfa weevil, and soybean aphid have all had significant economic effects.

"We're getting pretty good at managing," Potter said, "but they have caused a lot of stress, a lot of expense in Minnesota."

The stink bug was first noticed in Pennsylvania, and spread throughout the eastern part of the U.S., according to Jeff Hahn, U of M Extension entomologist. It isn't a picky eater - it feeds on about 200 different plants, and thrives on soybeans, corn, and apples. Since its introduction, it has spread as far as Oregon and as its numbers increase, so does the damage it does.

"Last year there was significant feed damage," Hahn said. "As for Minnesota, it's when, not if, it gets here."

Hahn said the stink bug feed through its hypodermic-like mouth, piercing the skin of the plant and sucking the sap, decreasing the plant's vigor to the point it dies.

"There's a potential for significant damage in Minnesota," Hahn said. "It's a numbers game, and it'll take time to build their numbers up."

So far stink bugs have been found in four locations in Minnesota, according to Hahn. How long it could take for the numbers to increase is hard to say; it took 12 years in the eastern U.S.

"It's not anything for farmers to worry about this year; we don't anticipate issues this summer," Hahn said, "but they should be aware."

Aside from crop damage, the stink bug is a nuisance in other ways. As the name implies, when irritated it emits a foul odor. Worse, it likes to move indoors for the winter.

"People don't like to share their house with bugs and this makes it worse," Hahn said.

However, the odor is not toxic. It's annoying but not harmful.

According to Hahn, the counter-measures at this point are monitoring where the bug shows up, and application of insecticides.

Farmers who find the brown marmorated stink bug should report the sighting to the MDA Arrest the Pest hotline at 651-201-6684 or 1-888-545-6684, or by email at

Though no sightings of the bug have been reported locally yet, the primary crops in the area are corn and soybeans.

"They would be very happy to feed on those," Hahn said.



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