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- A native of Asia, BMSB touched down in Allentown, Pa., circa 1996, quickly becoming a nuisance pest. By 2004 it was showing up on farms and forests. The value of susceptible crops in the 33 states where BMSB has been established or sighted exceeds $21 billion.
Yet 2011 losses haven't been as severe. Conventional growers are spraying aggressively, and July's record heat and drought probably played a role, say scientists involved in the project. Yet BMSB is devastating corn in some places, and once the rains returned, Jenstch and his colleagues found high numbers of BMSB in Hudson Valley woodlots and forests -- but none in orchards they bordered.
"I think they got the moisture they needed from leaves of woodland trees and were content to stay," Jentsch says.
These stink bugs, some say, smell like a combination of cilantro and burnt rubber. But not all stink bugs are pests, and some are beneficial, preying on common garden pests. Because "broad-spectrum" sprays kill beneficials as well as pests, says Jentsch, "we need to keep our hands on the reins and off the trigger."
Organic growers have few options, but researchers hope to find the right BMSB pheromones -- "scents" that lure BMSB into traps -- or discover which "natural predators" will safely keep BMSB in check. Such science-based IPM tactics keep environmental and economic costs as low as possible.
"The best hope for all growers, organic or conventional, is developing these classic IPM tools," Agnello says.