Monday, November 7, 2011

Stink bug sighting

Last July I wrote about the brown marmorated stink bug (BMSB).  This insect is a new invasive pest from Asian and has been spreading pretty rapidly across the eastern states.  Last month I got a report from John Rourk, ACE with Certified Termite and Pest Control in Corpus Christi, about what may be the first confirmed report of this pest in Texas.

Fall aggregation of BMSB and other stink bugs under light outside a home.
Photo by Leske, 2010.  (not from Texas)
According to Rourk, he received a call from a resident about a large number of bugs in their travel trailer after a recent visit to Pennsylvania. When he got to the residence he saw two stink bugs flying from the RV flying towards the residence. He also found and collected three specimens from the RV and was told by the owner that they had already killed “more than we can count.” He he was unable to find any more evidence of activity or live specimens in the RV or on the premises.

Rourk knew what he was doing when he collected specimens. The only way to confirm an unusual or exotic pest is to collect it. A photograph is better than nothing but is still not as good as a specimen (dead or alive). According to Dr. Roy Parker, Extension entomologist at the Texas AgriLife Center at Corpus Christi, the identity of Rourk's specimens has been confirmed by the Texas A&M University entomology museum, and has been reported to USDA.

In a 2010 report by USDA's Plant Epidemiology and Risk Analysis Laboratory (APHIS/PPQ), BMSB is projected to be agriculturally important in east Texas and the panhandle regions. According to the report, once BMSB invades a new area it is very difficult to control because of its high mobility and large number of host plants.

Called by some the "Interstate bug" because of its habit of hitching rides on trucks, RVs and vans, the BMSB will often be found clustered in engine compartments or other warm protected areas of vehicles.  Besides being an agricultural pest, once it becomes established it also becomes a household pest as a fall invader (see picture).

Just because the BMSB was found in an RV in Texas does not mean it is likely to have become established here. Several hurdles have to be leaped before an invasive pest can establish a viable breeding population. Dispersing bugs may not be able to find one another for mating and reproduction in a new area.  There may not be a critical density of acceptable host plants at the point of introduction, and weather conditions must be favorable at time of import.  According to USDA, we still don't know the minimum population level needed for successful establishment of BMSB into a new area, although the insect has been successfully introduced to at least seventeen states. Since 2003, however, BMSB has been intercepted or trapped in at least seven states (Florida, Illinois, Maine, Mississippi, Missouri, Rhode Island, and South Carolina) where they do not appear to have established breeding populations.

Remember, as a PMP you are on the cutting edge of surveillance for new pests. Observations made by the pest control industry are, and will continue to be, an important part of urban entomology research and knowledge about insects.

1 comment:

Stinger said...

That is a lot of bugs, a friend of mine in Ohio reports that the asian Ladybugs are fearsome and won't give up trying to get into their home and he says they bite as well.