Following in the footsteps of fellow nuisance pests the boxelder bug, Asian multicolored lady beetle and leaf footed pine cone bug the brown marmorated stink bug is knocking on the door.
This invasive pest is hoping to spend the new year in our gardens, and next winter in our homes. First reported in the United States in 1998 in Allentown, Pa., this Asian native has spread across Pennsylvania and into New England, and was first reported in central Ohio in 2007. Last year, reports of the brown marmorated stink bug were scattered across Ohio, including nearby Mahoning County.
Like other so-called ''true bugs,'' the brown marmorated stink bug feeds through a piercing-sucking mouthpart. With an extensive range, the pest harms plants by feeding on sap and damaging delicate plant tissues, including fruits and vegetables.
To add insult to injury, once this bug is done damaging garden plants, it congregates with fellow brown marmorated stink bugs and seeks out cracks and crevices in dwellings, making its way indoors for the winter.
In the garden, the brown marmorated stink bug damages a variety of plants, including fruits,
ornamental trees and shrubs and vegetables. Because this pest is highly mobile, it can shift from early-ripening to late-ripening crops, thereby damaging many plants throughout the growing season.
On apples and peaches, stink bug feeding causes lesions on and just beneath the skin, scarring the fruit and allowing secondary infections that cause further damage. These damaged fruits are unmarketable, leading to substantial losses in orchards in areas where the pest is established. Feeding also occurs on cherry, raspberry, grape, currant and pear fruit.
Trees and shrubs are damaged by feeding on leaf tissue. Damage to leaves is characterized by light-colored stippling, with lesions sometimes coalescing and turning brown. Beans, tomatoes, asparagus and peppers are some of the vegetable crops damaged by the stink bug.
While the brown marmorated stink bug doesn't seem to congregate indoors in numbers as high as the Asian multicolored lady bug (dozens versus thousands), it still causes distress by its mere presence indoors, as well as its defense mechanism of releasing a foul odor, described as skunklike. This odor is most perceptible when the pests are swept up by a vacuum cleaner; the vacuum bag should be promptly removed and discarded.
To prevent insect invasion, all cracks and crevices around doors and windows should be tightly sealed with caulk. The insect doesn't breed, feed or damage materials or surfaces while wintering.
Distinguishing this shield-shaped true bug from other true bugs necessitates a close look at the antennae for the alternating light and dark bands that are characteristic of this species. The sides of the abdomen also have alternating light and dark bands. Immature brown marmorated stink bugs are yellowish brown and somewhat ticklike in appearance (easily distinguished from ticks with a count of the legs: eight for ticks, six for all insects).
In some subtropical regions of China, where the pest is native, as many as six generations a year are reported, but U.S. researchers believe there is only one generation a year in the Midwest.
Adults emerge from dwellings in early May to lay eggs on leaf tissue. Immature nymphs hatch out and mature through three ''instar'' or molting stages before maturing into the adult stage. In September, these adults begin to gather and seek winter locations.
If gardeners think they have seen this pest either in their home or in the garden, contact Ohio State University's Plant and Pest Diagnostic Clinic (http://ppdc.osu.edu) for confirmation. Researchers at OSU are working with researchers at Rutgers University in New Jersey to track the pest's movements in North America. These researchers will probably adjust population maps next summer as the brown marmorated stink bug becomes more established and more visible across Ohio.
Denise Ellsworth is a horticultural educator with Ohio State University Extension. If you have questions about caring for your garden, call the Master Gardener hot line from 9 a.m. to noon Tuesdays and Thursdays at 330-928-GROW or write: Horticulture Educator, Summit County, 2525 State Road, Suite 250, Cuyahoga Falls, OH 44223. Include your phone number. E-mail questions to email@example.com.