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Stink Bugs Slowly Invade Michigan

Oct 21, 2014 11:31 AM EDT

Surveillance traps are showing that the brown marmorated stink bug - a harmful pest for farmers and a smelly nuisance for home owners - continues to gradually invade southwest Michigan even as weather grows colder.

The brown marmorated stink bug (Halyomorpha halys (Stål)) is an exotic insect hailing from Asia. Like some harmful beetles and aquatic life, the stinkbug found that it had few natural predators when it came to North American shores, allowing for it to rapidly reproduce and spread.

It was first identified in Pennsylvania in 1996, and has since aggressively invaded 29 states - primarily near the mid-Atlantic coast. The bug reportedly showed up in Michigan in the autumn of 2012.

What's worse, the insect has an insatiable and varied appetite, tearing through ornamental crops, fruits, vegetables and grains in affected agricultural sectors. They have also moved to invade homes in residential areas, getting at what fruits and vegetables they can.

In an effort to delay the invasion as long as possible, experts from Michigan State University (MSU) have been keeping close tabs on these tiny nuisances, as a part of the MSU Extension's Fruit and Nut News. Affected farmers are warned of their plight in advance so that they can take preventative actions.

And it seems to be working. The final 2014 summary for the statewide monitoring program has shown that while they are still present in Michigan, the stink bug invasion has not spread much further than the initially affected areas in the southwest, and populations are on the decline as cold weather moves in.

"Except for a few hotspots in Berrien County and two instances of suspected fruit damage by [stink bugs] in Berrien County and eastern Ottawa County, evidence of [stink bugs] was extremely hard to find," the report read. "Only four out of the 64 traps checked this past week captured any [stink bugs] - all were in Berrien County."

But while that's great news for the agricultural community, who survived another wave of invasion, homeowners will still be struggling with the insect for some time.

"I have lots of them," resident Cathie Buckley told Michigan Live, "and my husband can't stand the smell of them. They are horrible."

If you do spot one in your home, don't squash it! Stink bugs earn their name from the pungent odor they release after they are severely threatened or squashed. The best move is to poison or trap unsuspecting stinkbugs, potentially using their own pheromones against them, as proposed in a recent study.

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