Stink Bug Season

October 3, 2011 under CANR News, Cooperative Extension

Pull up the welcome mat; they’re back. It’s early fall in Delaware, which means pumpkins on the vine, apples on the trees and stink bugs in the house.

“Last year, I got a flood of calls about stink bugs during the last week of September,” said Brian Kunkel, an entomologist with the University of Delaware’s Cooperative Extension. “Sure enough, this past week, Extension has been hearing from homeowners trying to get rid of stink bugs.”

“As the days grow shorter and the evening temperatures cooler, Delawareans are discovering these uninvited houseguests in their garages, porches and decks, as well as inside the house,” Kunkel said. “The brown marmorated stink bug becomes a nuisance pest when it heads inside to find overwintering sites.”

While merely an annoyance to most homeowners, the brown marmorated stink bug (BMSB) poses an economic threat to Delaware agriculture. Fruit crops seem to be at greatest risk, especially peaches and apples. About 18 percent of the mid-Atlantic apple crop had stink bug damage last year, according to the U.S. Apple Association.

“West Virginia apple orchards experienced significant crop loss last season because of the BMSB,” Kunkel said. “Here at UD, we’re doing everything we can to make sure that we don’t see the kind of crop loss that West Virginia had.”

Several of Kunkel’s colleagues in Extension and UD’s College of Agriculture and Nature Resources are researching BSMBs in soybean, lima bean, sweet corn, field corn and sweet pepper fields.

Two of the most active researchers are Joanne Whalen, the Extension’s integrated pest management specialist, and Bill Cissel, an Extension associate who is investigating stink bugs as part of his graduate studies.

Cissel and Whalen, assisted by two interns, are examining stink bugs in conditions similar to home yards and gardens, too. In UD’s Garden for the Community, a one-third-acre plot on the Newark campus, the duo surveyed stink bug nymphs, adults and egg masses on plants commonly grown in home gardens — tomatoes, zucchini, yellow squash, cucumbers, eggplant, sunflowers and bell peppers. Plus, they’re studying a plot of ornamental plants to see which plants stink bugs use as hosts.

Rutgers University, Virginia Tech, the University of Maryland and the Delaware Soybean Board are some of the partners on one or more of these projects.

Although Delaware has several native stink bugs, BMSBs originates in Asia and were accidentally introduced to the United States. First collected in Allentown, Pa., in 1998, BMSBs have been spreading across the eastern half of the U.S. ever since.

Kunkel said spiders and birds have been known to eat BMSBs (he’s heard reports of house cats eating them, too) but the pest has no recognized natural predator here.

The USDA Beneficial Insects Introduction Research Lab, housed on UD’s campus, is investigating biocontrol measures. Biocontrol introduces natural predators into an environment to control, if not eradicate, the pest problem. But the rigorous research process and government approvals needed for biocontrol measures can take years, even decades.

Delaware’s farmers are asking for help now. So the focus of Whalen and Cissel’s research is on monitoring to determine when to control stink bugs, as well as which insecticides provide the best control.

Field observations in 2010 indicated that stink bug infestations usually start on the perimeters of fields, Cissel noted. “We’re studying whether perimeter applications of insecticides will prevent stink bugs from penetrating the interior parts of soybean fields,” he said.

“In our corn research, we are trying to determine how much damage stink bugs are causing and when the plant is most sensitive to damage — is it when it’s silking, during grain fill or closer to harvest?”

Insect research projects typically run for two to three seasons, and most of the UD studies are in their first year. So it’s too early to discuss preliminary results, Cissel said, especially since the BMSBs weren’t as active this summer as previously.

“We had a really large outbreak last year,” Kunkel said, “but we’re not seeing those kinds of numbers this year.”

Tell that to Kathy Fichter, a resident of Chadds Ford, Pa.

“It’s just as bad as last year and it’s only the beginning of stink bug season here,” said Fichter, who always has a tissue at hand, ready to scoop up stink bugs. “My two sons won’t go near them, and these are boys who like bugs,” she said.

“Our neighborhood seems to be a ‘vacation destination’ for stink bugs. They come here by the hundreds, maybe even thousands,” she added. “My neighbors are in the same predicament. Yet, a few miles away, they aren’t such a nuisance.”

Kunkel isn’t surprised by Fichter’s stink bug woes, even though regional conditions are generally better. “Stink bug outbreaks — and insect outbreaks in general — tend to be localized,” he said. “We often hear of one neighborhood getting slammed while another neighborhood a half-mile away will have very few bugs.”

If the BMSB already has arrived at your house — or you want to make sure it doesn’t — take control measures now. The best thing you can do, Kunkel said, is to seal all cracks around windows, doors, siding, utility pipes and chimneys. Often overlooked, he said, are the cracks that can appear around dryer vents and gaps around window air-conditioning units.

“Try to look on the bright side,” Kunkel said. “Stink bugs that get inside are helping you to winterize your house. Wherever they got in today is where the cold winter winds will, later this year.”

Article by Margo McDonough

This post also appears on UDaily.

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Sussex County Master Gardeners Announce “A Day in the Garden”

July 6, 2010 under CANR News, Cooperative Extension, Events

Sussex County Master Gardeners, of Delaware Cooperative Extension for both Delaware State University and University of Delaware, invite you to their Open House on Saturday, July 17 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Sussex County Extension Office in Georgetown. Admission is FREE. Visitors are encouraged to bring a non-perishable food item to the event and join Master Gardeners in supporting the Delaware Does More Program – growing food and funds for neighbors in need.

The Sussex County Extension Office is located at 16483 County Seat Highway, Route 9, west of Georgetown (west of Sussex Tech High School and on the same side of the road).  Look for the blue and gold tent in the Sussex County Demonstration Garden, immediately behind the office building. Ample parking is available.

A Day in the Garden Highlights – 2010

Accessible Gardening: Tour our gardens to get ideas for quick & easy ways to make gardening enjoyable for all. See tools and gardening aids, raised beds, containers and much more. Receive tips from a visiting physical therapist for staying fit and working in the garden at any age.

New for 2010! Plant Sale!

Children’s Garden: Enjoy story time in our Peter Rabbit’s Garden. New for 2010 – Meet Mr. McGregor and Peter at 11 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. Go on a scavenger hunt or enjoy our butterflies, frogs and goldfish. Bring your camera for great photo opportunities. Come enjoy all our children’s activities – from learning about insects, to potting your own plant and more.

New to Vegetable Gardening? Learn from years of Master Gardener experience and tour our vegetable garden. Learn about the Plant A Row Program to help those in need enjoy fresh produce.

Rain barrels are great ways to catch rainwater for use in the garden.  Learn how to make your own.

Love Trains? Love Gardening? Enjoy watching our train in the garden. Learn how to add interest and greater enjoyment with both hobbies.

Master Gardeners will be on hand to answer your gardening questions. Visit our native plant, herb, shade, bog, annual, perennial, pond, butterfly and children’s gardens. Get ideas for gardening with limited space using raised beds and containers. What varieties grow well in Sussex County? Tour our azalea, hydrangea and annual trial gardens to find out.

Have a plant problem? Bring it to our Plant Clinic for identification and recommendations.

Door Prizes will be awarded to visitors. No rain date is set for this event.

Bring a brown bag lunch and eat in our shaded picnic grove!

Just added! What’s wrong with my plants? – A garden walk focusing on pests will immediately follow the Open House event. This free workshop runs from 2 to 4 p.m. and does require pre-registration. Learn about the most common landscape pests in Sussex County. Learn how to use IPM (Integrated Pest Management) to spray less and save money. Learn how to identify beneficial insects that help keep the “bad” insects in check. What makes your garden attractive to beneficial insects. For more information, contact Karen Adams or visit the Master Gardener workshop page.

For More Information: Contact Tracy Wootten at 302-856-2585, ext. 538, wootten@udel.edu or Karen Adams at ext. 540, adams@udel.edu.  Please visit our website for detailed directions, photo gallery and more information: www.rec.udel.edu.

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