New Jersey Prepares For Stink Bug Season

stinkbugAcross the United States, many Americans are likely looking forward to warmer weather, especially after the harsh snowstorms that pummeled the Northeast and other areas. However, homeowners in New Jersey are probably considering installing retractable screens in their garage and on their patios: while the region is still in the final stages of winter, many are on the lookout for the unmistakable sound and smell of a prevalent local pest.

For the past decade, New Jersey has been plagued by stink bugs, an insect named for the pungent odor they release to defend themselves from predators and parasites. These bugs wreck havoc on certain crops and are known for venturing indoors, to the disgust of state homeowners. Their presence can also make it difficult to enjoy time outdoors without being distracted by their distinctive noise and smell.

In an interview with the Daily Record, George Hamilton, a pest management specialist with the Rutgers Cooperative Extension in New Brunswick, noted that there are around 20 native varieties of the stink bug in New Jersey. However, the most problematic version is the brown marmorated stink bug, which is believed to be indigenous to Japan, Korea, China and Taiwan. The brown marmorated stink bug was first identified in Pennsylvania in the late 1990s and is believed to have been introduced through a shipping container from Beijing. This stink bug is now found in over 40 states, as well as parts of Europe.

Hamilton assured readers that the stink bugs are not dangerous. However, they have over 100 host plants, ranging from soybeans to apple trees, making them a threat to many farmers and their crops. For example, in 2010, the U.S. Apple Association estimated that it lost $10 million in fruit due to the insect; Hamilton reported that many New Jersey farmers didn’t even bother picking their apples because the fruit was simply destroyed.

In response to these problems, Rutgers University has reportedly been studying the biology of brown marmorated stink bugs for more than 10 years. Over the course of this project, researchers have discovered that spraying various insecticides, such as pyrethroids, often has the best results. However, these chemicals may also harm pollinators, making some New Jersey residents reluctant to use them. As a result, the USDA has tried experimenting with predators, such as parasitic wasps from Africa, but none they have tested have been found to attack the stink bug at high rates, although lacewings and ladybug varieties may be helping to reduce stinkbug numbers.

But while their numbers may be decreasing slightly, Hamilton says the number of stink bugs this coming spring and summer will likely match those of last year, which was considered a mild to moderate year for the insect. Accordingly, he recommended that all homeowners take care to seal their properties by caulking around door frames and windows and put small screens over their attic vents. Erecting a barrier around outdoor spaces may also help reduce this annoyance.

“Just when the weather starts warming up and you want to open up the house and let that fresh air in – the stink bugs come out and they want in your house too,” says Frank Kerski of Screenex. “The only way to cut down on bugs getting into your house is to screen all the openings to your house. That includes the garage door and porch, the biggest openings to your home.”

New Jersey residents, as well as those in other states, can reportedly expect to see the stink bugs start to multiply in late May or early June. Depending on the temperature, they could even go through multiple laying cycles, causing the bug season to last until September or October. To reduce the number of stink bugs in their area, Harrison recommends examining nearby foliage, looking for trees and plants that are harboring stink bugs. These plants can then be sprayed.