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Asian stink bug invades Southern Ontario

Plug your noses, the stink bug has arrived in Ontario.

The brown marmorated stink bug — which originates in Japan, Korea and China — has been spotted with increasing frequency in Southern Ontario. Since 2012, the invasive species has been found in Toronto, Hamilton, Windsor and London, and was most recently discovered in Chatham.

“We haven’t found them in our crops yet,” said Hannah Fraser, an entomologist with the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture. “But we’ve been on the lookout for them for a while now.”
The stink bug species was first discovered in Pennsylvania in 2010, and has since spread throughout the continental United States. They feed on a wide variety of plants and fruit, and can be devastating for farmers.

In 2010, for example, the bugs destroyed $37 million worth of U.S. apple crops.

Most of the bugs found in Ontario were discovered in people’s homes, where they will often attempt to overwinter. They can be recognized by the two light-coloured bands on their antennae and their characteristic odour, which some people believe smells like cilantro.

“We want people to be on the lookout for them,” Fraser said. “They’re a relatively new pest and we’re still trying to understand their biology.”

Like other successful invasive species, Fraser says the brown marmorated stink bug is very mobile — often hitching rides on vehicles or cargo containers — and lacks natural predators. Controlling the bug in the U.S. has thus far involved pesticide, but Fraser said the method is “not sustainable.”

Other options being explored include attract and kill strategies, natural repellants and biological controls. Fraser said her colleagues in the U.S. are researching the possibility of importing a parasitic wasp from Asia, similar to the one brought over to combat the emerald ash borer.

The difficulty is finding ways to fight the invasive stink bug without unduly harming stink bug species native to North America.

“Not all stink bugs are bad,” Fraser said. “There are some species that prey on other agricultural pests.”

The agricultural ministry has asked anyone spotting a brown marmorated stink bug to catch it, snap a photo and send it to Residents can also phone the Agriculture Information Centre are 1-877-424-1300.

“Early detection is critical in mitigating economic injury to crops,” Fraser said.


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