published Monday, November 7th, 2011

Stink bugs expected to invade Georgia

Adult, top, and nymph brown marmorated stink bugs (Halyomorpha halys), winged invaders from Asia that are eating crops and infesting U.S. homes, are spreading and have been spotted in Georgia.
Adult, top, and nymph brown marmorated stink bugs (Halyomorpha halys), winged invaders from Asia that are eating crops and infesting U.S. homes, are spreading and have been spotted in Georgia.
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HOW TO HELP

Rick Hoebeke asks homeowners who find what they think are brown marmorated stink bugs to send him a photo or even freeze a bug and mail it to his lab. Email photos to rhoebeke@uga.edu. Ship specimens in a crush-proof container to E.R. Hoebeke, Collection of Arthropods, Georgia Museum of Natural History, University of Georgia, Athens, GA 30602.


STINK BUG FACTS

• Color: A dark mottled brown, with black and white spotted antennae

• Size: About half an inch

• Origin: Asian native, sometimes called the yellow-brown or East Asian stink bug

• In U.S.: First identified in Allentown, Pa., in 2001, but could have been in the area since 1996. Could have entered the country as stowaways in packing crates.

• Food: All types of fruits, especially apples, pears, peaches and berries

Whatever you do, don't squash it.

That's the advice experts have for Georgia homeowners who encounter the brown marmorated stink bug as it scurries into cozy attics to wait out the winter.

This stink bug is known to release a pungent odor that can be as foul as a skunk or spicy like cilantro. The pests have been spotted recently in the Peach State for the first time. Crawling through cracks and under siding, the bugs build nests and can cost homeowners hundreds of dollars to dislodge.

"It can establish nests by the thousands," said Rick Hoebeke, a University of Georgia entomologist.

But as bad as the smell can be, it's the threat to fruit crops that could cause the most harm.

Experts and growers worry that as the weather warms next spring, the creatures will crawl from homes to invade orchards and farms, harming Georgia's $60 million peach and $6 million apple industries.

"There's definitely no question that it's coming," said Jessica Holthaus, a spokeswoman for the Georgia Department of Agriculture. "Our fruit crops are at risk."

Across the mid-Atlantic states, the stink bug has cost fruit growers millions, Hoebeke said. And there are no known natural predators in the U.S. to keep the bug at bay.

The pest, which is endemic to Asia, was first identified in this country in Pennsylvania in 2001. Since then, it has been spread to 33 states. While the stink bug has been found in a few places in northern parts of Tennessee, it hasn't made its way to Chattanooga yet.

But the bugs have been hitching rides south and were spotted this year in South Carolina.

That alerted Hoebeke, one of the lead researchers on this species, and prompted him to begin researching whether the creature had gotten a foothold in Georgia. He has identified patches of the pest in the Atlanta region, and he hopes to document infestations wherever they may be.

"We don't know what it's going to do in the Deep South," he said. "It could take five to 10 years to have an impact."

INVASIVE

Stink bugs don't let off their foul smell unless they are disturbed, so a homeowner could go months without knowing there was an infestation, said Chad Haney, owner of Lookout Pest Control in Rossville.

"You might not even know unless you see them on your siding," Haney said.

Haney said he gets one to two complaints a month for regular stink bugs as well as calls from locals who don't know what has infested their home.

If the brown marmorated stink bug does show up, homeowners could begin to spot them as soon as the weather gets cold.

There is no easy way to kill the unwanted guests.

Pest control experts say infested houses have to be sprayed from the outside.

But don't startle a bug that appears to be a stink bug or your house could be flooded with a foul stench.

HARMFUL PEST

Southeast Tennessee and North Georgia growers say they have begun to check their apple trees this season for the unwanted species.

"We are worried about that one because they say it's hard to kill," said Janice Hale, owner of Hillcrest Orchard in Ellijay, Ga.

Some of the state's top commodities -- peaches, pears, apples and blueberries -- could be at risk in the coming years, Holthaus said.

UGA professor of entomology Dan Horton said the bugs pierce the fruit, liquefy the inside and then suck the fruit juice out.

Because the wound is small, it can be hard to spot the damage early on, Horton said.

This fall Horton has been taking trips to North Georgia apple orchards to check with growers for the insects.

"The sooner we know where it is, the better we can figure out how to monitor it," he said.

Chuck McSpadden, owner of Apple Valley Orchard in Cleveland, Tenn., hopes a natural solution can be found soon. He said he stocked his orchard with natural predators that eat other harmful insects and spraying for the stink bug would harm the good ones.

"I'm hoping they can come up with something before it's infested," he said. "I can't imagine losing a crop years in a row."

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about Joy Lukachick...

Joy Lukachick is the city government reporter for the Chattanooga Times Free Press Since 2009, she's covered breaking news, high-profile trials, stories of lost lives and of regained hope and done investigative work. Raised near the Bayou, Joy’s hometown is along the outskirts of Baton Rouge, La. She has a bachelor’s degree in mass communication from Louisiana State University. While at LSU, Joy was a staff writer for the Daily Reveille. When Joy isn't chasing ...

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FedUpWithBS said...

While the stink bug has been found in a few places in northern parts of Tennessee, it hasn't made its way to Chattanooga yet.

Yes it has. I have been seeing them at my house in Hixson for s few weeks. I have just been gingerly picking them up and dropping them into a container of alcohol. That kills them.

November 7, 2011 at 5:59 a.m.
Reardon said...

Yup -- have been seeing them in Hixson -- or something similar -- the last 2-3 weeks.

November 7, 2011 at 7:41 a.m.
KWVeteran said...

There's some good news here after all. The headline is referring to actual insects and not the liberals from D.C.

November 7, 2011 at 8:11 a.m.
lumpy said...

I thought this piece was about the Occupy Wall Street pests.

November 7, 2011 at 10:01 a.m.
flee123 said...

I've also seen several of these insects in Hixson over the past few weeks. I can handle one or two, but it makes me wonder how many "friends" are lurking nearby.

November 7, 2011 at 2:21 p.m.

We had them last fall and again this year in the Cherokee Woods area of Chattanooga. The best way to get them individually is to catch them in plastic grocery bags, and seal them quickly. Then you can squish them or just throw them in the trash. The odor doesn't seem to permeate the plastic. Just beware that they seem to enjoy clothing in closets or hanging up on the back of a door. After getting sprayed by one that took up residence on my robe, I shake everything before I put it on. Nasty, nasty creatures.

November 7, 2011 at 3:02 p.m.
Winner said...

Well, the state of Georgia is already the most unappealing state in all the Union. Might as well add stink bugs to the list of reasons to avoid that place.

November 7, 2011 at 3:16 p.m.
Joyanna said...

Maybe this article is talking about a different variety, but we've had these in Chattanooga for decades. My vegetable garden became infested with them near the end of the season last year. Am I missing something?

November 7, 2011 at 8:19 p.m.
gmomma said...

I had an outbreak last year and this year of these bugs in my apt. complex. I researched these bugs and yes, they are in Tennessee. They were in the entire three upstairs bedrooms. They were on my curtains, clothing in the closet and occasionally I would swat them off of me when laying in my bed!! If they are hybernating in the ceilings and I see them again next year.... I am going to demand that the management exterminate them! I shouldn't have to bare the expense of getting rid of them when they are in all the other apt., also. CREEPY!!

November 11, 2011 at 8:51 p.m.
szabobo said...

I lived in PA & had to deal with these nasty bugs all the time. My landlord had some success killing them with a spray bottle of Palmolive/water mixture. Just don't squish them as in a way it can attract more.

November 16, 2011 at 5:24 p.m.
Luvs30102 said...

hate to tell y'all this but I grew up just outside of Atlanta and I can remember these bugs from my childhood - I can remember squishing them in my uncles room because they would stink up his whole room right before he had a date and he would get so mad at me... and that was 30yrs ago.... So despite what the articles are saying I know that these bugs have been around way longer then 2001 - I think we are just noticing them now since they seem to be out of control... I have found over 100 in my trailer in the past 2 weeks and I'm starting to think that I shouldn't have painted my living room bright white now since it seems to attract them....

September 28, 2012 at 3:17 p.m.
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