Stink Bug

Brown Marmorated Stink Bug. (Photo: Shutterstock).

 

Carol O'Meara, Colorado State University Extension

Carol O’Meara, Colorado State University Extension

LONGMONT – Good journalism, like great wine, is a commodity that should be sampled and enjoyed often. Indulging in researched, well-written articles keeps the mind sharp and expands our understanding of the world. But as you consume your information, keep in mind the region you live in and look for local sources of information if you have questions.

Recently the New Yorker magazine published an article by Kathryn Schulz that has gardeners nervous here in Colorado. An in-depth look at the Brown Marmorated Stink Bug, it described an invasive insect wreaking widespread havoc on crops and homes. Honestly, the makers of the Walking Dead would have been better off with producing Night of the Invading Stinkbugs.

As good writers can do, the tale she told was gripping. And because many humans fear insects, it was filled with an element of horror: thousands of invading insects entering the home in one evening, a night spent frantically exterminating them, and weeks and months of lingering infestation.

The kicker in the article is the claim that this is occurring across the county, stating that the bug has spread to 43 of the 48 continental states and “has overrun homes, gardens, and farms in one location after another.” Understandably, people here became alarmed. E-mails, phone calls and letters have arrived asking about this bug in our area.

Yes, it has been found in Colorado. In that, we are listed as one of the unlucky 43 states. But according to our state Entomologist Dr. Whitney Cranshaw: “We have found it many times in the state, probably about five years ago for the first time. But it seems to die out or certainly is not thriving anywhere in the state.

This is an insect we have watched for in Colorado for many years. Over the years we have had scattered reports of it; usually when one or two (rarely more) were found in a home. And on occasion we have had a field sample with nymphs confirming some reproduction.” But not one of the sites where this insect has been reported in Colorado was it ever subsequently reported, Cranshaw said.

This is good news, counteracting the image that thousands upon thousands of stinkbugs are poised to turn our homes and croplands into a seething, smelly morass.

Said Cranshaw in an e-mail “I do not think that this is one that will be a big problem in this part of the country. Even in the mid-Atlantic area, where it first established, numbers have declined a lot in recent years. Indeed, I was surprised to read the New Yorker article at this point in time as I thought it would have been something more appropriate to have written a few years ago.”

Concern over invasive insects is well-founded; with both Emerald Ash Borer and Japanese beetles we have ample evidence that some can cause problems for Colorado. But in this case, we may have dodged the bug.

“Some invasives do better here than they do in the east, many do worse; the emerald ash borer and Japanese beetles are exceptions,” said Cranshaw. “There is little overlap with the kinds of insects one finds in yard/gardens – and the nuisance invaders that migrate into homes – here in Colorado with what occurs in Pennsylvania or North Carolina.

We have our issues, like clover mites, cluster flies, boxelder bugs, western conifer-seed bug, and miller moths, while they have theirs (multicolored Asian lady beetle, brown marmorated stink bug). I was much more worried about this insect a few years ago and now doubt it will ever amount to anything much in this state.”

By Carol O’Meara, Colorado State University Extension (CSU Extension).CSU Extension together with Boulder County Parks and Open Space, provides unbiased, research-based information about consumer and family issues, horticulture, natural resources, agriculture and 4-H youth development. For more information contact Colorado State University Extension at the Boulder County Fairgrounds, 9595 Nelson Rd., Box B, Longmont, 303.678.6238, e-mail comeara@bouldercounty.org or visit ext.colostate.edu/boulder.