Asian ‘megapest’ is chomping up US orchards

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WASHINGTON, June 29, 2011 (AFP) – A stink bug from Asia is chomping up US vegetable fields, orchards and vineyards, causing experts to scramble through an arsenal of weapons to try and halt this stealthy, smelly predator. Pesticides, parasites and traps have all been tried but none have succeeded in killing off the brown marmorated stink bug, Halyomorpha halys, which first surfaced in the northeastern United States in 1996 and has since spread to 33 of the 50 states.

After having tried just about everything, farmer Bob Black said he sometimes resorts to a known weapon — his fist.

“I smash ’em, I am so mad at ’em,” he said. “The thing stinks, it’s terrible… they emit this defensive odor system and that is why nothing will eat them.”

Black, who runs Catoctin Mountain Orchard in Maryland, saw big damage to his fruit business last year and is trying to avoid more this year by allowing scientists to research the bugs on his land and by spraying more pesticides.

He rarely sees the insects themselves, leading him to believe they may siphon the life out of his fruit at night, like vampires. “The way they feed with their hypodermic needle mouth is they pierce down into any product, skin or tree up to three-ei