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With stink bug season here, entomology specialist gives pointers on how to deal with them

  • Stink bug season has begun in western Mass. STAFF PHOTO/DOMENIC POLI

  • Stink bug season has started, and the insects — particularly brown marmorated stink bugs — are preparing to hunker down for the winter, wedging their way into warm spaces however they can. Though they don’t bite or cause structural damage, the little bugs can be an unsavory surprise in a crevice and can wreak havoc on crops. STAFF PHOTO/DOMENIC POLI

  • Daniel Greene tends to more than 2,000 heads of garlic inside the barn on his farm in Charlemont. Greene reports that while stink bugs do not cause him problems, he instead battles squash bugs and the Colorado potato beetle. STAFF FILE PHOTO/ANDY CASTILLO

  • Meryl LaTronica, farm manager at Just Roots in Greenfield, said that while stink bugs do not pose much of a problem, the farm’s major pest is the flea beetle. FOR THE RECORDER/PAT LEUCHTMAN



Staff Writer
Tuesday, October 20, 2020

The general consensus is that 2020 stinks. And dealing with an invasive bug species known for emitting foul-smelling chemicals will likely not put anyone in a better mood.

Stink bug season has started, and the insects — particularly brown marmorated stink bugs — are preparing to hunker down for the winter, wedging their way into warm spaces however they can. Though they don’t bite or cause structural damage, the little bugs can be an unsavory surprise in a crevice and can wreak havoc on crops.

Tawny Simisky, an entomology specialist at the University of Massachusetts’ Landscape, Nursery and Urban Forestry Program, said the insects feed on 300 species of plants, including fruits, vegetables, and shade and ornamental trees. She said the adults seek shelter to help them survive winter. The species is not native to the United States and originates from Asia.

“Folks don’t like sharing their space with them,” Simisky said, adding that people can prevent the insects from entering their homes by repairing any tears in door, window and attic vent screens and caulking breaks in the foundation. “Even though it looks tiny to us, those insects can crawl in in search of heat and shelter and make their way into our home.”

Simisky said people should not panic when they see stink bugs — just vacuum them up, making sure to remove and throw away the vacuum bag because the insects could work their way out if they are still alive. Insecticide is usually unnecessary, she said, and people should carefully read the substances’ instructions because “they do come with risks.”

Simisky explained brown marmorated stink bugs first appeared in the United States in the late 1990s, but were limited to the mid-Atlantic region, regarded as Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, the District of Columbia and Virginia, as well as parts of New Jersey, New York and North Carolina. They were discovered in Massachusetts in March 2007.

Tom Clark, who co-owns Clarkdale Fruit Farms in Deerfield with his son, Ben, said he just this year started seeing brown marmorated stink bugs.

“(There’s) maybe a little damage,” he said. “But we’re concerned that next year’s going to be worse.”

Clark said the bugs even attack grains. He also said green stink bugs can harm his peach crop. Clarkdale grows more than 100 varieties of apples, peaches, plums, pears, cherries and grapes.

Meryl LaTronica, in her fourth season as farm manager at Just Roots, a nonprofit organization in Greenfield, said her major pest is the flea beetle.

because they grow so many mustard greens.

“We haven’t had much of a problem (with stink bugs),” she said. “Probably more in my house than on the farm.”

David Wissemann, who co-owns Warner Farm in Sunderland with his father, Mike, said they are not having issues with stink bugs and the most problematic pests are corn earworms and fall armyworms. He also reported problems with deer.

Daniel Greene, who has run Good Bunch Farm in Charlemont for eight years and owned it for two, also said stink bugs do not cause him a headache. Instead, he battles squash bugs, which he said also emit a foul odor, and the Colorado potato beetle.