Battling Brown Marmorated Stink Bugs


We're GONNA start our show today by taking a trip back to the nineteen eighties when singer. Songwriter Billy Joel was at the top of his game and he released two. Song Allentown about the decline of the steel industry. In America steel factories were closing in steelworkers. Were losing their jobs. The song shed light on the challenges the workers faced and at the same time. It made allentown a city in Pennsylvania quite famous so now let's fast forward twenty or so years. Two Thousand and one and Allentown is in the news again but this time it's because of an insect an agricultural pest from Asia had somehow found its way to Pennsylvania. The insect called the Brown rated stink bug feeds on apples. Peaches figs mulberries citrus fruits and other crops. Well it didn't take long for these tough little bugs to spread and by twenty ten. They wrecked havoc on orchards and crops in various parts of the United States. And the really bad news. Is that Brown? Mom rated stink. Bugs are still here and there on the move and they may soon arrive to a fruit tree near you. So what can we do about it? I've invited Tracy Leschi to the studio today to find out. She's an entomologist. And by the way an optimist as you will discover in this interview today. She's also the director of the Appalachian Fruit Research Station at Cairns Ville West Virginia. Her research is focused on the development of behaviorally based management tools for invasive and native pest of fruit crops. But before we start chatting I would love to hear your stories and your questions during the show you can email those questions and stories to in-studio one. Oh one at g mail DOT COM and do remember to include your first name and the city. You're writing from so tell us. Have you seen these bugs in your fruit trees? And what have you done about it in studio one a one at g mail dot com is the email so now to Tracy Leschi. Thanks for coming on the show today. Thank you Susan for the invitation. I'm so glad to have you here. And hopefully you will shed some light on these mysterious bugs. Oh my goodness so. The Story Starts Allentown. Can you tell me a little bit about that discovery? What was happening around then here. So you know Brown Mama Rated Stink Bug as you've already mentioned is a species that is not native to North America. It's native to Asian countries including China Japan Korea and Taiwan. This insect is an excellent hitchhiker And we'll probably get to that in a little while but at some point in the to late. Nineteen nineties homeowners. In and around the Allentown region of Pennsylvania were Seeing some interesting invaders in the fall to their homes and in fact these were Brown. Mom rated stink bugs. Now the issue was is that they weren't properly identified until two thousand one when Karen Bernhardt who with Penn State cooperative extension in Pennsylvania collected some of these specimens from a homeowner and she ended up sending them to attacks honest Rick Holbeck at Cornell and he identified them as Brown mom rates. Think so this was the first official record of population in North America. So how on Earth would they have gotten there? How did they get to these people's homes right so one of the interesting things about Brown mom rated stink bug is that they are excellent hitchhikers as adults and that means is that they can sort of end up being concealed and hidden from view and sort of take a journey to somewhere else and this is related to what we as entomologist refer to as their over wintering behavior which is essentially like hibernation for insects. So when these insects hibernate more or less they crawl into cracks and crevices and hunker down and wait for spring. And if these cracks or crevices happens to be in some sort of shipment of goods or perhaps in your suitcase or who knows This is how often these bugs have been transported to new locations. Whoa so how quickly would they spread? So let's say or what a what a thought. Let's say it's in your suitcase. You've gone on holiday to China. Or whatever he brought back these little hitchhiking bugs So let's say you have one bug or two bugs what happens then. How quickly would they spread? Well if you found one or two bucks I'd tell you to kill them I but You know it's a good question. They have a pretty good Reproductive capacity that sort of what we say in terms of you know how quickly can a population build up? Based on the reproductive efforts of a female a single female can lay up to twenty eight eggs at a time in in an egg mass. And she can lay up to four hundred over her lifetime. So you can imagine if you know. Just a portion of those eggs survived to adulthood and then reproduce. You can see that. A population could build rather quickly so is is that what happened like You know how quickly did this problem spread? You said it started sort of in the late nineties. It was discovered two thousand and one. And then what happens? Well what happened? After that was it was a slow spread And it was a slow build up for a number of years so in two thousand and three I found the first specimen officially outside Pennsylvania in Maryland. Just south of Allentown Pennsylvania. I in in sort of central Maryland in a town called Hagerstown There was some. Also some official detections in New Jersey and then it continued to spread through what we refer to as the mid Atlantic here in the United States and to Virginia West Virginia You know parts of Delaware Into upstate or sort of well. I should say downstate New York so the populations continued to build Over a number of years and then you know really began to build quickly back in two thousand eight two thousand nine and in two thousand and ten throughout the region. We really experienced what we refer to as an outbreak population. So what did that look like Especially if you're growing cheese. Yeah it looked well you know. When we first began to detect problems in fruit trees from Brown mom raided stink bug and say two thousand eighteen thousand nine. The issues were confined really to the late season. Where just before harvest and this is really painful. If you can imagine your fruit just about ready to be picked from the tree almost ripe. We were seeing large numbers of adult invading the orchards in the fall and feeding on the fruit and this was causing for some of our local growers up to ten percent loss. Even back then but in two thousand and ten we saw the bugs invading earlier much earlier actually just after the fruit had formed just after pedal fall essentially in these orchards. In that early season feeding really set up our growers for significant losses. Where you know for our Peach Growers. Many growers lost their entire crops. Most lost half of their crop. And then it just went on from there. You know apples and Incurred ABOUT THIRTY SEVEN MILLION DOLLARS IN LOSSES. Thousand and ten just locally. That's terrible was the fruit. Not salvageable at all. I mean what what do these Brown marmalade stink bugs due to the fruit? Yeah they are you know. They are a typical stink bug species in that their mouth parts are essentially a straw and they insert that Straw into the fruit tissue and they inject some salivary enzymes that essentially helps break down that tissue and suck out the juice and so what they leave behind. Is this dry corky tissue beneath the surface of the skin as well as discolored display depressions on the surface now for peaches because the feeding Began so early essentially once you peel that fruit. The entire fruit was riddled with these deep pockets of dead comey tissue and you know. The entire fruit was essentially unsolvable. It was just a complete loss. For FOR APPLE. Growers some of the fruit could be redirected to From sort of a fresh market to juice market. But you know they're getting Cents on the dollar in terms of the value so in essence they're losing over. Ninety percent of the value of that fruit have normally gone into fresh market. So it was very

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