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Trap would help keep stink bugs outdoors

A trap to keep stinks bugs from Asia out of people's homes is being developed by Agricultural Research Service scientists.

The brown marmorated stink bug, Halyomorpha halys, has expanded its range to Virginia, West Virginia, New Jersey, Delaware and Oregon since its discovery in Pennsylvania about a decade ago.

The bug's impact on crops remains to be seen, but the biggest problem so far has been that it looks for warm wintering sites and makes its way indoors when the weather turns cool each fall. These bugs don't harm humans, but if they're squashed or pulled into a vacuum cleaner, they smell.

Entomologist Jeffrey Aldrich and chemist Ashot Khrimian, at the ARS Invasive Insect Biocontrol and Behavior Laboratory in Beltsville, Md., were recently stunned by the infestation seen in a Maryland home. The bugs can be a particular problem in attics and crawlspaces, and homeowners have no easy way of getting rid of them, according to Aldrich. Stink bugs are not particularly susceptible to insecticides.

Aldrich's experimental traps show that stink bugs increased from barely detectable levels in 2004 to numbers that now surpass those of the native green stink bug.

Aldrich and Khrimian are searching for an attractant pheromone to synthesize and use in a trap. In Japan, the brown-winged green bug, Plautia stali, a cousin of the new arrival, releases a compound that is the basis for a lure used in a Japanese commercial trap.

Khrimian synthesized the compound and with it produced experimental dispensers used in traps to monitor the bug's population. But synthesizing the bug's own pheromones would likely make for a more effective trap than one based on pheromones from another stink bug.

Aldrich is raising H. halys in his lab, inserting them into specially vented tubes, and using gas chromatography to look for pheromones among their emissions.

Read more about this research in the July 2009 issue of Agricultural Research magazine, available online at: www.ars.usda.gov/is/AR/archive/jul09/bug0709.htm.

ARS is the principal intramural scientific research agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

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