WSU entomologists begin monitoring stink bugs to prevent invasion in the northwest

PULLMAN, WA - While Washington State University Students are away on Spring Break, many researchers are staying busy on campus.

Reporter Rachel Dubrovin explains why WSU Entomologists are spending a lot of time studying a specific type of stink bug that could be harmful to Washington's fruit industry.

"This is a serious pest that we're spending a lot of time and energy trying to make sure that we manage," said WSU entomologist Richard Zack.

Washington State University is one of ten institutions across the nation that's researching brown marmorated stink bugs.

"The term 'stink bug' should tell you something," said Zack.

The stench of one of these stink bugs is very distinct, but it's difficult to describe. I'd say it's kind of like a dirty laundry smell.

"This is one that does two things that we think are bad," said Zack. "Number one, it attacks a lot of different types of fruits. And the other thing, in urban areas during the fall this stink bug builds up into big numbers and it gets into homes."

In Washington, these pests recently became an agricultural concern for fruit farmers.

"It actually kills the cells," said Zack. "So strawberries don't develop right, blueberries don't develop. In apples, you get like a pot-marked appearance."

WSU entomologists in Pullman and Yakima hope to prevent them from damaging the northwest fruit industry.

"We'd like to develop monitoring programs to know when it's coming in," said Zack. "We'd like to develop biological controls, so that we're using other insects and stuff to control this insect."

WSU entomologist Richard Zack said the bugs are a large problem in the eastern part of the country, and they're working on biological ways to prevent a stink bug invasion here in the Northwest.

"We'd like to develop ways to keep it out of the agricultural areas, and not worry so much about trying to control it with chemicals once it gets there," said Zack.

Professor Zack said at this point, people in the Northwest don't need to be concerned about stink bugs invading their homes because their population here is still small in comparison to the eastern U.S. Also, they don't bite or harm humans.