Hamilton has a new hitchhiker in town. One that's skilled enough to get from Asia all the way to Hamilton aboard a ship and on the road. But this invasive species is not wanted here.
It's the brown marmorated stink bug, and Hamilton has this pest's first established population in Ontario, said Hannah Fraser, an entomologist from the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs.
The pest is native to China and other parts of Asia. It made it's way to North America in the late 1990s, likely via storage containers aboard ships, Fraser said. It was first detected in Pennsylvania in 2001.
Fraser went on a hunting expedition in Hamilton in August after hearing reports of the pest in and around the city. Fraser found the stinkbug in various spots in Cootes Paradise and on the Escarpment.
"Hamilton is a happening place with a port, highways and many routes around the city," Fraser said.
A likely route may have been via the Queen Elizabeth Way from the American Mideast, Fraser said.
While the pest is wreaking havoc in U.S. agricultural centres in Pennsylvania and New York State, the stink bug is finding its way into homes in Hamilton.
Fraser said she knows they are moving indoors. She's getting numerous calls from homeowners wondering what to do with the pest.
"There is a reason they are called 'stinkbugs,'" Fraser said with a laugh. "When disturbed or mishandled, they'll emit an odor. If you squish it, the pest will also emit that odor."
She describes that odor as "herby," smelling like cilantro or coriander.
If a stinkbug is found indoors, Fraser recommends either dunking the pest in a bucket of soapy water or freezing it. Some homeowners collect the bugs found inside with a handheld vacuum.
"The easiest way to deal with it is to make sure you're sealing cracks with caulking and removing window air conditioners," she said.
If a stray bug does get inside Fraser said homeowners shouldn't be worried about finding little stink bugs around their home — the pest will not reproduce indoors.
The real concern for Hamilton is in the agricultural sector. To date, Fraser said they have not identified any stink bugs in crops but that doesn't mean the threat doesn't exist for the next growing season.
"It's very significant to agricultural areas with the density of grapes and tree-fruit in the area," Fraser said.
Fraser sits on an American committee to help mitigate damage and eliminate the pest. Part of the problem is that this stink bug doesn't have any natural predators in North America.
Fraser said some tactics used in the U.S. now are trying to take advantage of the bug's behavior. One way is to produce a chemical called an "aggregation phermone" to attract a mass of the pest and kill it.
Another hope is that predators of other varieties of stink bugs begin to recognize the brown marmorated bug and adopt it as a predator. Fraser said there is a wasp that lays eggs in other stink bug's eggs to parasitize it, or kill the larvae before they are even born.
Anyone who wants to report a finding can contact OMAFRA Information Centre at 1-877-424-1300 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Fraser said good pictures or specimens (un-squished) can help.