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Virginia Tech (Blacksburg) researchers devise effective homemade stinkbug traps

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An inexpensive homemade stinkbug (Brown Marmorated Stink Bug) trap captures more brown marmorated stinkbugs (Halyomorpha halys) than expensive and sophisticated traps, says Virginia Tech researchers in a recent press release.

"We knew that insects are generally attracted to light, so we were able to exploit that with these traps," said John Aigner, a doctoral student in the Department of Entomology. Another challenge of the study was that "Currently there are no in-home insecticides labeled for use against brown marmorated stinkbugs...” Aigner said.

To conduct the study, Aigner and Tom Kuhar, an entomology professor and Virginia Cooperative Extension specialist, enlisted the help of citizen scientists — homeowners who were annoyed by the infestation of stinkbugs in their houses — to evaluate different types of traps for ridding homes of bugs. The two-year study measured stinkbugs and traps in sixteen houses over two years.

Unfortunately, the traps are only practical for in-home use. They present no current reprieve for farmers in the mid-Atlantic region who face millions of dollars in damage to their crops from the brown marmorated stinkbug. Stinkbugs invaded the mid-Atlantic region in the late 2000s. Forty-one U.S. states now host this bug.

"The real (stinkbug) devastation comes in the form of damage to farmers," said Kuhar. "Stinkbugs feed as nymphs and adults on the fruit and pods of plants, which maximizes their chances to render a crop unmarketable. These bugs have been documented to feed on many of our (Virginia’s) important agricultural crops including apples, peaches, grapes, soybean, peppers, tomatoes, corn and cotton."

Treatment of the insects in crops is costly because the insecticides required to co control stinkbugs commercially are broad-spectrum toxicants. They kill any insect that comes into contact with the pesticide. The use of broad-spectrum insecticides is highly disruptive to integrated pest management programs.

Integrated pest management (IPM) is an ecosystem-based strategy that focuses on long-term prevention of pests or their damage through a combination of techniques such as biological control, habitat manipulation, modification of cultural practices, and use of resistant varieties.

In addition, Kuhar states that, "The few native natural enemies they (stinkbugs) have can easily be killed with the same insecticide used to target the stink bugs themselves. Still this homemade inexpensive solution could give some reprieve to homeowners who find thousands of these cilantro-smelling bugs in their homes. Scientists involved in the study plan to publish their findings in the Journal of Extension. Virginia Tech also created a short video showing how to build a trap.

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