Meet the Bug That's 'Reversed 3 Decades' of Pesticide Progress

And is known to invade homes by the thousands
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 7, 2018 9:10 AM CST
Updated Mar 10, 2018 1:51 PM CST
Meet the Bug That's 'Reversed 3 Decades' of Pesticide Progress
In this Thursday, Sept. 21, 2017, photo, a stink bug is seen in Dubuque, Iowa.   (Dave Kettering/Telegraph Herald via AP)

"It was like a horror movie." That's what one South Carolina woman recalls about the moment she and her partner entered their bedroom after leaving the room's French doors cracked open to find that hundreds, perhaps thousands, of stinkbugs had invaded the room, covering every visible surface. In a longform New Yorker piece, Kathryn Schulz has more horror where that came from; she also describes a million stinkbugs covering an exterior wall of a West Virginia bank and a wildlife biologist pulling stinkbugs out of his Maryland attic by the handful, among other similarly disturbing stories. But its tendency to invade homes is far from the only reason the brown marmorated stinkbug is terrifying: It also destroys crops, and not just a few different ones but more than 250 varieties of plants. The bugs are rare in that they are both a household pest and a danger to crops—most bugs are one or the other.

Schulz traces the history of the stinkbug in the US; the first verifiable specimen arrived in Pennsylvania in 1996, likely on a shipping pallet from China—and from there the bugs have spread to 43 of the 48 continental states, with one scientist comparing their advance to a tsunami. As they've invaded state after state, stinkbugs have done major damage to all sorts of crops; they can even change the flavor of wine. Schulz examines the many reasons stinkbugs are a major problem—one of the biggest is that they are notoriously difficult to kill, unless of course you crush them one by one and are punished by their terrible smell—as well as one idea for getting their population in check by introducing a wasp that preys on them, and what this all means for the future. That's a future in which things like this are sure to happen again, considering how easy it is for non-native species to get established in new areas these days. Full piece here. (Read more Longform stories.)

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