A Well-Travelled Exotic Insect- The Brown Marmorated Stink Bug.

© Aislinn Adams Brown Marmorated Stink Bug and nymphs.

A ‘botanical’ illustration that walked into my blog.

All my blogs so far have been about my botanical illustrations. This week however, while continuing to write on the theme of fruit and vegetables, I write instead about an insect. This one appeared in our bathroom a few weeks ago. It left such an impression that I had to write about it. I have illustrated many insects for the “Digging In” gardening column of the Washington Post. Most of them have been garden pests but not all. This insect, above, is definitely a pest and has the potential to become a serious problem for fruit growers.

A stinkbug!

The mottled brown, six-legged creature, sporting dark antennae with white bands towards the tips, is only three quarters of an inch in length but hard to miss on our white linoleum floor. I immediately recognized it as a stink bug because of its shield-shaped body- they are also called shield bugs. My first thought was; how on earth did it get into our upstairs bathroom? Later I learned that this species takes shelter in houses over the winter.

We have a very permissive attitude towards insects in our house, with only a few of the usual exceptions. After all, we live in an old house full of nooks and crannies and very attractive to insects. Usually I, or my daughter, carefully release any tiny visitors to the outdoors.

The Brown Marmorated Stink Bug.

When I saw the stink bug I called my daughter so that she could have a good look. Then she gently lifted it onto a piece of tissue and released it outside onto our front porch. I didn’t think much of it at first. All insects are interesting and worth a second look but something about this one made me pause. It nagged at the back of my mind for a few days before I finally remembered that I illustrated a pest stink bug just like it for the “Digging In” gardening column a couple of years ago and then I remembered it’s name- the brown marmorated stink bug.

A potentially serious pest.

Of course the “Digging In” gardening column deals with gardening queries from the Washington D.C. area and not the Pacific North West. I didn’t connect the two stink bugs at first. I assumed this couldn’t be the same species all the way across the continent but rather a native species. I ‘googled’ the brown marmorated stink bug anyway. There are lots of photographs on line. I saw that our house visitor looked very similar. As I read on I felt rather guilty because I learned that we might have released an exotic, potentially serious pest into the neighborhood.

When a second one appeared in our bathroom a few days later I was ready with a jam jar and called the local extension service almost immediately. I brought the stink bug to their office and they confirmed that it was indeed a brown marmorated stink bug. However, they alleviated my guilt somewhat by letting me know that it was not the first found in the area.

A stink bug far from home.

The story of the brown marmorated stink bug is an interesting, cautionary tale. It was first found in the U.S.A. in Allentown, Pennsylvania in 1998. No one knows how it got there from its native range in China, Korea, Taiwan and Japan but it is presumed that it hitched a ride in some cargo. It is a pest in its own native range using fruit trees and soy, amongst many other species, as a host plant. The stink bug has sucking mouthparts and feeds by piercing fruit and stems. For this reason it could become a serious agricultural pest, especially here in Oregon: a huge fruit growing state.

Now  found in Oregon.

It was first found in Oregon in Portland in 2004 and later in Salem – where I live. As of today it has managed to find its way to over half the states in the U.S. According to an Oregon Dept. of Agriculture information sheet only two specimens of the stink bug have been found in the Salem area. If this information is up to date this means that the two stink bugs I found may be number three and four. If you think you have seen this stink bug in your house or yard bring it along to your local extension service and have them check it out. If, like me, you don’t like squashing bugs or spraying them with pesticides, an alternative way to kill them is to put them in a container in your freezer for a while.

Aislinn Adams

4 Responses to “A Well-Travelled Exotic Insect- The Brown Marmorated Stink Bug.”

  • I’ve sure I’ve seen those stink bugs in my house. I had no idea they were non-native. Thanks.

  • Aislinn Adams:

    Hi Mike,
    We’ll probably start seeing more of them too. At least they don’t breed indoors but outdoors on their host plants, e.g. apples, pears and many other fruit trees.

  • I was in Vancouver today and noticed a dark stink bug on the wall of the hotel. I collected a few but haven’t made the close examination yet. One thing that stood out on the immatures was a white underside, dark top. I don’t find any reference to the underside color being white. Any thoughts. And now I have to find out what I’m going to feed the little buggers. Got more homework to do. It was a good wall and also yeilded a boxelder bug and a seed bug.
    Sharon

  • Aislinn Adams:

    Wow! That’s quite a haul. I suppose you could try feeding them fruit. Aislinn

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