Smelly, invasive stink bugs could be getting worse in some areas, the study says

(NEXSTAR) – A bug, aptly named the brown marbled stink bug, is an invasive species already found in much of the United States. A team of researchers found that they could become even more common thanks to climate change.

The stink bug, which appears to make its way into your home no matter what you’re doing and emits a pungent odor when it kills, was introduced to the United States in the mid-1990s, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. The Department of Agriculture notes that the bug was first confirmed in Pennsylvania, similar to another invasive species that officials are calling for to be killed.

Native to East Asia, stink bugs feed on a wide variety of plants such as fruit and ornamental trees and some crops. While they are found in 46 states, the EPA says the highest concentrations of stink bugs are found in the mid-Atlantic region.

But as researchers at Washington State University recently found, stink bugs could become more important as the weather changes, which could increase the bug’s suitable habitat by 70%.

In a study published in Pest Management Science, researchers reviewed stink bug surveillance efforts in 17 states and “several potential climate scenarios” to formulate a model showing how climate change may affect the presence of the bug.

“Every system will change with climate change. The fact that you can now grow chickpeas, lentils, or wheat without these pests doesn’t mean you won’t have them in a few years,” said the study’s lead author, Javier Gutierrez Illan, an entomologist at Washington State University. in a press release.

Researchers say overall conditions suitable for stink bugs are likely shifting north, to areas around the Great Lakes (Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio) and in West Coast valleys like California’s Sacramento Valley and Treasure Valley extend into Idaho.

There were two main factors the researchers pointed to that contribute to a stink bug’s preferred habitat — the insect’s aversion to cold weather and its need for water.

As the colder weather sets in, you may already be seeing stink bugs trying to make their way into your home. While your home — and populated areas in general — are ideal for the stink bugs because it provides them with a place to hibernate, researchers have found that once the insects have reached an area, they can thrive without them.

And if rising temperatures mean warmer winters, that could mean success for the bugs. However, researchers say the beetles are less likely to thrive there when higher temperatures leave areas dry.

Researchers found that states to the south, particularly along the Gulf of Mexico, may be witnessing a decline in the beetle’s preferred habitat.

Still, “the insect may significantly expand its range in the coming decades, threatening crops in regions where it has not yet been detected,” researchers write.

“There are mitigating things we can do, but it’s smart to prepare for change,” Gutierrez Illan added.

Some states are working to combat the invasive bug. For example, researchers at Washington State University have found that samurai wasps can be used to control stink bug populations. The wasps lay their eggs inside stink bug eggs, effectively killing the bug and producing wasps that eat other stink bugs.

When trying to prevent a stink bug invasion in your own home, experts at Pennsylvania State University say the best method is to seal all openings that the bugs can get in through, be it your windows, doors, chimneys or sidings. Insecticides outside your home can also help, but their effects can be mitigated by exposure to sunlight.

Once inside your home, the EPA suggests vacuuming stink bugs whether they’re dead or alive, but be aware that doing so can cause your vacuum to smell for a short time. You can also create a trap using a metal pan of soapy water placed near a light source that can attract the bug. Aerosol and nebulizer insecticides can kill the bug but cannot prevent others from entering. Smelly, invasive stink bugs could be getting worse in some areas, the study says

Dais Johnston

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