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Bug Causing Much More Than a Stink for Apple Industry

While maybe you’ve only heard of the Brown Marmorated Stink Bug (BMSB) – America’s newest invasive species, Michigan Apple growers are living with the threat that this shield-shaped pest, which secretes an odor of burning leaves when squished, will leave them with little to show for their hard work.

Believed to have entered the U.S. in 1998 via packaging crates from Asia, BMSB destroys fruit by injecting saliva with its piercing mouthparts. It was first confirmed in Michigan in early 2011, posing the most serious threat the Great Lakes State’s apple industry has faced in years – possibly decades.

“This pest has been thrust upon us, perhaps by global market expansion and inadequate USDA inspections at borders,” said Denise Donohue, executive director of the Michigan Apple Committee (MAC). “Controlling this voracious feeder is going to be very, very difficult and our researchers are scrambling after solutions.”

In 2010, the pest damaged 10 percent of the apple crop in Pennsylvania and Maryland. That level of destruction would equate to as many as 2.5 million bushels of unsellable apples and a $12 million loss to growers in Michigan. The industry is hoping that won’t happen here.

The escalating rate of BMSB infestation across the U.S. within a relatively short time is especially alarming. The pest now inhabits 29 states, spanning from the East Coast to as far west as Oregon.

The insect is particularly destructive since it uses pheromones (sex scents) to attract others of its kind at harvest time when it is extremely difficult to treat. The threat will increase tremendously in fall 2012 when one of the most effective pesticides in the fight against BMSB is expected to be taken off the market.

In the meantime, researchers are striving for a solution to help protect agriculture from this invasive species. Without question, BMSB is fast becoming the most sought-after bug in the apple orchard.

Watch out little warrior of the insect world – Michigan Apple growers have officially declared war!