- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 5, 2005

HAGERSTOWN, Md. — As temperatures rise and the growing season begins, entomologists will be watching Western Maryland for clues that a potentially devastating pest called the brown marmorated stink bug is emerging in the region.

The large brown bugs, native to China, Japan, Korea and Taiwan, have been expanding their range since first confirmed in the United States in October 2001 in Allentown, Pa.

They since have been identified in several other Pennsylvania counties and parts of Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, Virginia and West Virginia, mainly in communities along Interstates 78 and 81.

In January, the bug was detected in Portland, Ore., the first U.S. sighting west of the Mississippi River.

The Hagerstown cluster, confirmed 17 months ago, is of particular interest to Gary L. Bernon, an entomologist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, who studied the insects in Allentown in 2003 and 2004.

Mr. Bernon said the specimens that will soon stir from their wintertime rest inside many Hagerstown-area homes could reinforce his belief that the marbled brown bugs pose a major threat to soybeans, orchard fruits and other crops.

“This is a major emerging pest,” he said. “It still has not come into contact with large-scale agricultural areas and that’s when the stink will hit the fan.”

In Asia, Halyomorpha halys and its close relatives are well-known pests, Mr. Bernon said. In the American South, another species, the green stink bug, damages soybeans, he said.

But Mr. Bernon, based in Cape Cod, Mass., said the green stink bug isn’t as hardy as the brown marmorated stink bug. It cannot survive northern winters like the brown bug.

The brown bug has been chilled in one respect: breeding. Mr. Bernon found that the Allentown bugs produced just one generation during the season he studied them, whereas the same species in China reportedly has produced as many as five generations a year.

As the bugs move south, Mr. Bernon fears they will become more prolific.

“It may be that in Hagerstown, it’s able to have more than one generation a year,” he said. “It could have moved far enough south to have not just one, but two generations.

“If that’s true, I would say it’s going to be double the trouble. It’s going to be that much more likely that you’re going to have agricultural problems and backyard grower problems.”

Mr. Bernon plans to visit Hagerstown this summer to observe the bugs. His work will be guided by sightings that he and state officials hope people will report to the Maryland Cooperative Extension system.

The insects are dark brown, with white markings on their antennae that distinguish them from other stink bugs, and they stink when crushed.

The acrid smell is “horrendous,” said Vicki Pillis, who reported an infestation at her house south of Hagerstown last fall.

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