If you’re asking yourself: “What is a stink bug?”… you really don’t want to know.  Many regions in the United States have been inundated with the brown marmorated stink bug (BMSB, Halyomorpha halys), especially those of the mid-Atlantic where populations are highest.  Originally from Asia, these invasive insects are a nuisance as they enter homes (frequently during the fall months when temperatures begin to drop) and emit a pungent smell when crushed.

Agriculturally speaking, BMSB is a major problem rather than a nuisance.  On apples, BMSB feeding injures the fruit causing unsightly lesions, rendering it unmarketable (although it could still be processed for cider).  In 2011, BMSB cost Mid-Atlantic apple growers approximately $37 million in losses.  At this point, insecticides are the primary tool to manage BMSB on apple.  SMSB is also a pest of corn and soybeans, peaches, beans, citrus and ornamentals.

Now there is word of another newly introduced species of stink bug, the kudzu bug (Megacopta cribraria) headed toward the mid-Atlantic.  The first report of the kudzu bug came from Georgia in 2009 (BMSB was first spotted in PA in the 1990s) and it has been making its way north ever since.  It feeds on kudzu, an invasive plant abundant in the southern U.S. but also feeds on many other economically important species of bean (think: soybean and other garden varieties).  Weekly insecticide sprays may be required in an agricultural setting and homeowners can also spray an insecticide on vegetation surrounding their home to keep the insects at bay.

BMSB versus Kudzu Bug

The University of Georgia also reports that when crushed the kudzu bug emits an unpleasant odor (similar to the BMSB), can stain human skin and other surfaces and cause a minor allergic reaction (swelling/itchiness) on human skin.  Since insecticides should not be applied inside a home and a fly swatter is not an attractive option for the reasons listed above, experts suggest collecting the insects with a vacuum and killing them in soapy water.

As of fall 2013, the kudzu bug has been detected as far north as Maryland.  If the BMSB can over-winter in the Mid-Atlantic, there’s a good chance the related kudzu bug can too.  Next year keep your eyes peeled for both species in the garden.

Watch a WPXI Pittsburgh report on the kudzu bug here.

University of Georgia’s www.kudzubug.org