Teams of U.S. Department of Agriculture researchers are hot on the trail of weapons to fight the invasive brown marmorated stink bug.
So far the pest, which feeds on and damages a wide variety of crops, has been confirmed in 39 states, according to a news release.
Ashot Khrimian, a chemist with the Agricultural Research Service in Beltsville, Md., has led a team that identified a promising aggregation pheromone to lure the pest during the early season.
The chemical, released by male stink bugs as they feed, attracts other males, females and nymphs.
When mixed with other related chemicals called stereoisomers, the pheromone is relatively simple to synthesize.
Khrimian and his colleague, Aijun Zhang, have evaluated stereoisomers to attract stink bugs as part of field trapping.
And Dawn Gundersen-Rindal, a lab research leader in Beltsville, is looking for genes that might make stink bugs vulnerable to species-specific biopesticides or other treatments that won't harm beneficial insects.
She and scientists from the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston are working to sequence the stink bug's genome.
Knowing where genes responsible for survival are located can help researchers develop new ways to control the pest.