Stink Bug Invasion Bugs Biology Professor

Posted in: G-Town News- Oct 14, 2010 No Comments

The United States should better monitor and control species entering the country such as the Brown Marmorated Stink Bug (Halomorpha halys) and the Asian Tiger Mosquito, according to Georgetown entomologist Edward Barrows.

“Although the USDA attempts to stop all potentially alien, invasive species from entering the U.S., too many creatures slip through its underfunded fingers,” Barrows says. “Invasive species cause billions of dollars of damage to ecosystems and human health and people are often involved in spreading such species.”

Unlike this particular species of stink bug (Barrows says there are thousands), the Asian Tiger Mosquito causes itchy welts and sometimes spreads disease.

But the little brown tank-shaped stink bug is particularly prevalent this year. 

“Our 2010 hot summer might have been especially favorable for the production of this species of stink bugs, as it had two generations in the Washington, D.C., area instead of its single generation per year,” Barrows explains.

Crop Destroyer
The stink bug in this area comes from Asia, where it is known as “Stinky Big Sisters.” One or more stow-a-ways in shipping containers most likely came to the United States in the 1990s.

Stink bugs get their name from the strong odor they emit when disturbed. “Scientific experiments show that the odor helps to defend them from bird and lizard predators,” the professor explains.

While the Brown Marmorated Stink Bug is harmless to humans, it is responsible for destroying a large number of crops — including corn, peaches, tomatoes and other fruits and vegetables.

Barrows’ forest ecology students are responsible for recognizing the bug and its ecological roles. He says they are studying the creatures as an example of a recent invading species.

Green Riddance
The Georgetown Center for the Environment advises getting rid of this stink bug from homes in a “green” fashion.

“Collect them in a bag and throw them outside where they can become part of a food web,” Barrows says. “Vacuuming them and letting them die in a vacuum bag is slow and cruel punishment, and vacuum bags are pollution in dumps.”

Flushing them down toilets creates pollution and is a waste of water, he adds.

“Billions of people do not have access to clean drinking water, but we use it for flushing toilets in the U.S.,” he notes.

Puppies Vs. Tigers
The professor doesn’t mind the Brown Marmorated Stink Bugs that occasionally come into his home or fly around on campus.

“I think they are good because they elicit curiosity about our natural world, and this species is part of our local food web,” he says.

And, he adds, they pale in comparison to other insects such as Asian Tiger Mosquitoes.

“The Halomorpha halys are Bulldog puppies compared to these terrible tigers,” he explains.

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