WSU entomologist Richard Zack displays a brown marmorated stink bug on an apple.
WSU entomologist Richard Zack displays a brown marmorated stink bug on an apple.

The brown marmorated stink bug has made an unwilling celebrity out of Joe Beaudoin as the first farmer in the Pacific Northwest to battle the pest.

But the Vancouver, Wash., grower, along with university researchers, believe the stink bugs' threat will continue to mount, according to a news release.

“I’m concerned that the damage they’ve done here is just a tip of the iceberg for area crops,” he said in a news release. Beaudoin was referring to the apples, pears, sweet peppers and, most recently, pumpkins that the insects destroyed on his 90-acre farm in Vancouver’s city limits.

Todd Murray, an entomologist and director of Washington State University's Skamania County Extension, says he's receiving an increasing number of reports as the pest expands it range.

He is among a group of researchers working with growers to try to control the pest. WSU, Oregon State University and the U.S. Department of Agriculture are part of the nationwide effort.

The Pacific Northwest actually is the latest area to be invaded by the stinky and unwanted visitor. The pest was first identified in Allentown, Pa., in the late 1990s.

Like all true bugs, the brown marmorated stink bug uses a straw-like proboscis to pierce the skin of plants and suck out plant juices. As it feeds, it injects a salivary enzyme that breaks down tissue around the feeding site.

The pest has a wide host range, from stone and pome fruit to vegetables and even soybeans and corn in the husk.

The stink bug is particularly hard to kill with insecticides. Once a field or orchard is treated, newcomers quickly invade, replacing bugs that were killed off.

In the fall, they emit an aggregation pheromone that attracts hundreds and even thousands of their kin to join them on the sides of buildings and houses. Homeowners complain as they invade houses to overwinter.

As their name implies, the bugs emit an unpleasant odor when squished.

Researchers have identified aggregation pheromones that can be used in pyramid traps to monitor for the pest.

For more information on their work, visit www.stopbmsb.org.