Oregon banks on minute wasp to battle marmorated stink bug

01/30/2013 10:29:00 AM
Vicky Boyd

brown marmorated stink bugCourtesy Oregon State UniversityBrown marmorated stink bugIt's all out bug-on-bug warfare in Oregon as entomologists hope to pit a small imported wasp against the invasive brown marmorated stink bug.

The stink bug, which has captured headlines in the East, has been found in 13 Oregon counties, including the agricultural Willamette Valley, according to a news release.

So far, the pest has had minimal impact on Northwestern crops, although the same can't be said about the East, where it's damaged several commodities, ranging from corn and soybeans to apples and stone fruit.

Oregon State University researchers are looking at Trissolcus halyomorphae, a pinhead-sized wasp imported from China, where the stink bug is native.

The wasp lays its eggs in the brown marmorated stink bug's eggs.

The wasp larvae feed on the stink bug eggs, killinig them in the process.

Releasing the wasp could be years away as researchers first have to bring it through quarantine to ensure it isn't carrying another pest or pathogen.

They also have to conduct tests to determine whether it will go after insects native to the United States.

"The problem with the introduction of biological control organisms is that bugs don't recognize borders like we do—we don’t want to release something that causes more harm than good," entomologist Peter Shearer said in the release.

He is leading OSU's stink bug research.

The concern over the brown marmorated stink bug arises from its wide host range. In Oregon, it could go after several crops, including corn, winegrapes, hazelnuts, pears, apples and cherries.

Researchers plan to beef up their tracking of the insect this season and are asking Oregon growers and residents to report sightings to bmsb@hort.oregonstate.edu.

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