Stink Bug Pest a Challenge to Control Sustainably, But Strategies Exist

October 6, 2014

BLACKSBURG, Virginia – Virginia Tech entomologists studying Integrated Pest Management (IPM) techniques to manage the brown marmorated stink bug have found that it’s one tough pest to control sustainably.

Based on the results of a Southern Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education On-Farm Research grant to manage the brown marmorated stink bug on peppers, control via natural parasitoids was low, and using trap crops was even less effective. However, the data opens the doors for future research on alternative experimental approaches.

“The challenge with brown marmorated stink bug is its wide host range. It moves about and doesn’t feed on a single host,” said Thomas Kuhar. He and Katherine Kamminga looked at a simple experimental trap crop design of sunflowers and sweet corn bordering a strip of peppers. Research literature has shown the design is effective in controlling other stink bugs, such as the green stink bug and the leaf-footed bug on peppers, tomatoes and blueberries.

“That design doesn’t appear to be a sound strategy with the brown marmorated stink bug,” said Kuhar. Study results showed no significant difference in brown marmorated stink bug densities on peppers between the trap crops and the control over the three-year project period.

“It is possible that a different plot arrangement might have worked better. Brown marmorated stink bugs have been shown to move from crop to crop presumably as the nutrition of each plant becomes most suitable,” said Kuhar. “Thus, to be effective, a trap cropping approach would need a mix of trap plant species and/or planting dates that mature at different times providing constant optimal food to keep the bugs from moving to the cash crops. “ Alternatively, a push-pull strategy could be used where bugs are drawn to the trap plants and repelled from the cash crop using chemical repellents or plants, added Kuhar.

The researchers also studied parasitism of the pest and, while natural parasitoids were found, their numbers weren’t high enough to significantly reduce brown marmorated stink bug numbers. However, researchers were able to identify the specific parasitoids found on the pest (Anastatus reduvii and several species of Trissolcus including T. euschisti, T. thyanta, T. edessae, T. brochymenae and Telenomus podisi), which opens the door for future studies of biological pest control.

BMSB damage on bell peppers

Brown marmorated stink bug damage on bell peppers. Photo credit: Thomas Kuhar, Virginia Tech

One research method – a mechanical control strategy using insecticide-treated mosquito netting as a row cover – was found to be highly effective in brown marmorated stink bug management. However, Kuhar emphasized that the method remains a concept, albeit a promising one to continue pursuing.

“Farmers already use row covers as a barrier to protect high-value crops from pests, especially in organic systems,” said Kuhar. “What if you can use an insecticidal netting to protect crops, which would take the place of having to spray crops? That’s where the idea of the treated mosquito netting came from.”

Kuhar said that the treated nets are used in other countries to control malaria, which is spread by mosquitos. “The insecticide is infused in the plastic, which enables it to be slowly released providing long-lasting control (up to five years),” he said.

The researchers used a pyrethroid-treated polyethylene screen as a row cover during the trials of eggplant, muskmelons, collards, and blueberries, and found that fresh netting, as well as netting that had aged in the field for over two years, killed over 70 percent of brown marmorated stink bug nymphs and adults after being exposed to the netting. The treatment worked especially well on blueberry plants.

In addition, the researchers found that the treated netting was highly effective in controlling other insect pests, including cucumber beetles on melons and flea beetles on collards. “The collards under the treated netting yielded four times more than the untreated netting. That’s how effective the treated netting was in controlling the pest,” said Kuhar.

Though promising, such a product has not been commercialized for use in agriculture, said Kuhar. “But I think these results open up a whole area of discussion regarding this concept as a particular IPM control strategy.”

Kuhar said that the approach has potential as a possible alternative to managing invasive pests (brown marmorated stink bug or spotted wing Drosophila) in situations where other sustainable control strategies are ineffective or too complex to effectively manage.

For more information on the SSARE-funded study (OS12-065), “Sustainable Practices for the Management of the Invasive Brown Marmorated Stink Bug, Halyomorpha halys Stal, on Vegetables,” visit the SARE Projects Database.


Published by the Southern Region of the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program. Funded by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), Southern SARE operates under cooperative agreements with the University of Georgia, Fort Valley State University, and the Kerr Center for Sustainable Agriculture to offer competitive grants to advance sustainable agriculture in America's Southern region.

Topics: Integrated Pest Management, Peppers
Related Locations: South