ASHLAND, Ore. – Extension researchers are battling what could become a stink bug invasion in Southern Oregon. The little pests came all the way from Asia, but what was once just an urban nuisance could now become a big threat to local agriculture.
The Brown Marmorated Stink Bug made itself known two decades ago ravaging orchards on the East Coast. The insects thrive on a wide variety of crops, primarily fruits like pears or peaches.
Now entomologists are scouring trees around here looking for the insects, and they’re turning up in dozens.
“We’ve sort of been mapping that… and it looks pretty extensive,” said OSU Extension Entomologist Rick Hilton.
While there are stink bugs native to the area, this species has no natural predators or controls. For orchards an infestation could damage harvest.
If you’re a vintner, the effect is far different.
“The concern is having them harvested into the fruit and then tainting wine from the odor of the stink bug,” said Trium Wines owner Kurt Lotspeich.
Trium Wines says they’ve been watching out for these little bugs for three years now. They say pest damage is nothing new to them, but pests that actually taint wine are, and it could be devastating.
“You could lose an entire crop or a portion of a crop,” said Lotspeich. “Hopefully you can just limit it to a portion of a crop so you have enough capital to work with the next year.”
Now researchers from around the state are looking for solutions. Insecticides most commonly used in the Rogue Valley have been shown to be ineffective against this species of stink bug. But OSU Extension researchers say fighting fire with fire might be more successful.
“Up in Corvallis, we’re looking at parasitic wasps from its homerange and testing them to make sure it’s okay to release them here,” said Hilton. “The wasp can find it, and then they will lay their eggs inside the stink bug eggs. With other stink bug problems they’ve proven very effective.”
OSU entomologists say these stink bugs could become household pests as they begin to migrate into houses during the fall.
Not all stink bugs are invasive, but those who find one of the Brown Marmorated Stink Bugs are encouraged to report it to the OSU Extension Center.