Asian stink bug poised to devour North Carolina crops

Charlotte ObserverSeptember 5, 2011 

The Asian stink bug has started its migration into North Carolina, and a team of researchers at N.C. State University have prepped their labs, set their traps and launched a monitoring website - all in an effort to stop the pest's spread.

Their work is urgent. This insect, also known as the brown marmorated stink bug, has decimated crops in the mid-Atlantic states. The North Carolina researchers have their eyes on apples, peaches, tomatoes and corn — aiming to save these high-dollar crops from the stink-bug scourge.

"It's where a small amount of damage has a pretty big economic impact," said Jim Walgenbach, a researcher at N.C. State's Mountain Horticultural Crops Research & Extension Center, in Mills River.

Farmers in northern Virginia, eastern West Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, and south central Pennsylvania reported losing more than half of some crops in 2010 — mainly apples, peaches, blackberries, raspberries, strawberries, tomatoes, peppers, sweet corn and soybeans. Some reported total crop loss.

Asian stink bugs also love ornamental plants, so home landscapes are at risk, too.

"It really wasn't until last year until the populations (in the mid-Atlantic states) unexpectedly exploded," Walgenbach said. "Listening to my colleagues up there, it sounded like a biblical plague."

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