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Brown marmorated stink bugs are spreading

Search for egg predator is under way

This invader eats just about everything that is grown commercially in Hood River. They call it the BMSB for short, but its full common name is the brown marmorated stink bug. It’s a name local growers will become very familiar with, very soon.

After an initial siting of a few individual BSMBs along the railroad tracks near downtown in June of this year, OSU Extension staff recently found signs of a growing colony of the insect-threat in Hood River in the downtown area and on the Heights.

On Sept. 6, OSU staff members were collecting egg clutches from trees along Fourth Street and Columbia Avenue, where many adult BSMBs and their progeny were spotted.

The BMSB, originally native to China, is known to feed on 80 plant species including tree fruits, grapes, berries, corn, garden vegetables and ornamentals.

The heart of the battle with the BMSB is in the bug’s ability to resist most pesticides and bio-control practices that are currently available to growers.

Between 1996, when the first BMSBs were spotted in the U.S., and 2010 the exponential population growth of the BMSB and its effective traveling strategies have already led to widespread and devastating crop damage in Pennsylvania — the state where it was first identified. Those were 14, short years.

Dr. Peter Shearer, professor of entomology for Hood River’s OSU Extension office, is part of the nationwide effort to halt the insect invader from decimating U.S. crops.

“They’ve been in Hood River since June. Now they are just spreading out. They were just found in The Dalles this week as well,” said Shearer.

An OSU staff survey of local pear orchards in proximity to the newly located BSMB colonies haven’t found the bugs in or near the pear orchards in the lower Hood River Valley.

“My crew is receiving federal money to try and find solutions to this insect,” Shearer said. “We are collecting egg masses and assessing them for natural parasites. We are noticing that some of the egg masses have been parasitized by native wasps.”

According to Shearer, there are five native wasps that use native stink bug eggs as part of their reproductive cycle, laying their own eggs inside the stink bug’s. When the young wasps develop, they kill off the developing native stink bugs before emerging into adulthood, providing a possible predator against this non-native invader.

According to Shearer, the BMSB eggs are being “parasitized at a low level,” meaning the native wasps are not very successful at reproducing using this Asian variety of their preferred host.

“We are researching the parasitoid wasps and what is emerging from the eggs,” said Shearer.

“We are also testing new ways to monitor this insect with pheromone traps and light traps (that emit a certain light spectrum attractive to BMSBs),” he said. “We are testing new products. The USDA has identified the true aggregation pheromone.”

The first BMSBs arrived in Oregon in 2004 and in Hood River June 13, 2012. They commonly spread along roadways and railways, hitching rides on moving vehicles.

For more information Shearer suggests contacting the OSU county agents for Hood River and Wasco counties, Steve Castagnoli and Lynn Long.

Email inquiries to BMSB@oregonstate.edu. Send in photos or queries for additional information.

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