The B.C. Ministry of Agriculture is trying to stop the spread of brown marmorated stink bugs to commercial crops after a number of the insects were recently found in residential areas of the Okanagan Valley.

The brown marmorated stink bug is an invasive pest that attacks tree fruits, berries, grapes, vegetables, corn and ornamental plants. 

The province recently set up more than 150 traps from Salmon Arm to Osoyoos to track the insects' distribution.

"The main area where we're seeing a lot is Kelowna," said Susanna Acheampong, a provincial entomologist.

Between May and October, she said more than 1,000 of the invasive insects were found in Kelowna's downtown core.

Brown marmorated stink bug trap

The B.C. Ministry of Agriculture put out more than 150 traps between Salmon Arm and Osoyoos. (B.C. Ministry of Agriculture)

Acheampong said the bugs are attracted to many plants and trees found in the Okanagan, including maples, mountain ash and shrubs.

'This really can cause a lot of damage'

"Brown marmorated stink bugs will start in backyards; that is their behaviour. The numbers build up and then they move into our commercial crops," she said.

The bugs have a needle-like mouth and will pierce fruit to suck out the juices, causing discolouration.

In 2010, the species caused $37 million in damage to the U.S. apple industry. The bugs have also been found in southern Ontario and Prince Edward Island.

"This really can cause a lot of damage to tree fruits," said Acheampong.

"Unfortunately for us, our orchards are very close to our downtown areas. We might not have a lot of time before they move into our commercial fruit."

Brown Marmorated Stink Bug Apple Damage

Damage done to apples after the brown marmorated stink bug bites into the fruit. (Ontario Ministry of Agriculture)

Acheampong said at least one stink bug was already found in an orchard in Vernon.

Report bugs and kill them

Next year, the province will set out additional traps in orchards, "so, at least, we know where the populations are going ... so the growers can do something about it."

For now, researchers are asking residents to notify the province if they notice large numbers of the bugs in their homes or yards, so researchers can determine where the insects are spending the winter.

Brown marmorated stink bugs are distinguished from native stink bugs by their distinctive white bands along the antenna and legs.

If you find one of the bugs in your home, Acheampong suggests sweeping or vacuuming the bug up then killing it in soapy water.

With files from CBC's Daybreak South.