Researchers at North Carolina A&T State University have found a successful rearing method for brown marmorated stink bugs (Halyomorpha halys), which could be used to develop a reliable supply of the bugs for research.
Drs. Beatrice Dingha and Louis Jackai have developed a laboratory rearing method that has successfully produced five generations of brown marmorated stink bugs. Their work was presented at the 2014 Annual Meeting of the Southeastern Branch of the Entomological Society of America in March, and it is believed to be the first reported account of a continuous rearing method for this bug past a second generation in the U.S.
“Nobody to our knowledge has ever reported this, and as far as we know, this is the first time this insect has successfully been reared through several generations in the laboratory in the U.S.,” Dingha said.
With approximately 100 crops worth $21 billion susceptible to brown marmorated stink bug damage across the country, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has an ongoing nationwide research and management program focused exclusively on the insect. Despite some progress, research has been hampered by difficulties keeping enough bugs alive and reproducing in the laboratory long enough so that controlled experiments can be conducted. Dingha and Jackai say their success means research on the bug can now advance more rapidly.
“If you don’t have a reliable population to work with, you can’t study it and develop management strategies. Now, we are able to do experiments and take research on this pest to the next level,” Dingha said.
Dingha and Jackai’s method involves feeding the bugs a medley of their favorite foods, including fresh tomatoes, carrots, green beans, corn, cucumber, squash, and leaves from butterfly bushes and princess trees. They also kept the bugs at a consistent temperature of 25-27 degrees centigrade and 70 percent relative humidity. This combination of factors seems to encourage the bugs to remain active and reproducing instead of lapsing into their natural dormant state, a form of winter hibernation known to entomologists as “diapause.”
The U.S. Department of Agriculture has deemed the insect a major economic threat to fruit and vegetable producers, as well as to many growers of row crops and ornamental plants. The U.S. Apple Association estimates that in 2010 alone, the bug accounted for $37 million lost from apple orchards in the Mid-Atlantic region, and growers of other crops are reporting similar losses. Crops that are susceptible to the insect include vegetables, fruits, nuts, berries, corn and soybeans, among others.
Indigenous to Asia, the brown marmorated stink bug was first found in Pennsylvania in the mid-1990s. With few natural predators in North America, it has since expanded its range to at least 38 states. In addition to posing a threat to crops, the bug has also become a common household nuisance, entering homes and other manmade structures to overwinter.