Invasive stink bugs spreading across Ontario

Stink bugs are spreading across Ontario, with the invasive species found as far south as Chatham.

Brown marmorated stink bugs destroy fruit and vegetable crops

Stink bugs are spreading across Ontario.

The first official detection of brown marmorated stink bugs came in 2012 when a homeowner found one in Hamilton.

Ontario’s Ministry of Agriculture has now confirmed the invasive species has been spotted south of Chatham, about an hour east of Windsor.

The bug has also been found in Toronto (2012), Vaughan (2013), Windsor (2013), Niagara-on-the Lake (2013), London (2013), Fort Erie (2014), and Ottawa (2014), to name just a few municipalities.

A 2013 survey found breeding populations in localized areas in Hamilton

While the bugs do not bite humans, they will release a foul smell when handled or otherwise disturbed.

The bugs are a concern to the agriculture industry because they feed on fruit and vegetables.

“This is a very serious agricultural pest,” said Hannah Fraser, an entomologist with the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture. “It can cause severe injury and crop losses.”

Ontario’s climate doesn’t negatively affect the stink bug. It feasts on more than 170 varieties of plants and crops in the province.

“It will definitely establish itself,” Fraser warned.

The Ontario Ministry of Agriculture said the bugs can cause:

  • Discoloured, deformed, or corky fruit.
  • Abscission or collapse of berries.
  • Death of buds.
  • Leaf stippling.
  • Missing, shrivelled, or stained seeds.
  • Delayed maturity.

In 2010, for example, the U.S. Apple Association reported the stink bug caused $37 million US in losses.

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

The brown marmorated stink bug is an invasive species native to Japan, Korea, Taiwan and China.

The province says it was accidentally introduced to North America in the 1990s, and was first identified in Allentown, Penn., in 2001.

Fraser said U.S. officials are trying to determine if any species in North America preys on the bug and have even travelled to Asia to find natural predators.

“In the long-term, for this pest, it’s going to require multiple strategies to manage it," Fraser said.

Insecticide is normally the first thing farmers turn to, she said.

“That’s often the first thing people gravitate to when there is something new. It’s perhaps the easiest thing to do,” Fraser said. “The longer term strategies include attract-and-kill, repellent and biological control.”

Bug moves with ease

The stink bug is “an excellent hitchhiker and can be moved over large distances in shipping containers, cargo and vehicles,” according to provincial officials.

“It is anticipated it will continue to spread,” a post on the Ministry of Agriculture’s website says.

Spring is when adult stink bugs emerge from the warm confines of where they spent winter, usually attics and soffits.

The agriculture ministry is asking anyone in Ontario who finds a stink bug to catch it, take a photo and send the picture to the ministry.

“The best way to preserve specimens, and to prevent them from being crushed, is to place them in a small container with rubbing alcohol or vinegar,” the ministry says. “Good quality digital photos, showing key features such as the two white bands on each antenna, can also be useful for identifying [them].”

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