Stink Bug Invasion Harshing Vintners' Mellow

Do I detect a note of pestilence? Farmers in Virginia, Oregon, Washington and California are battling an invasion of the Asian brown marmorated stink bug, an invasive pest with no native enemies which has been decimating farmers' fruit and vegetable crops; now, the stink bug has moved into the vineyards.
The bugs are a nuisance to farmers due to using their tongues to suck juice from fruits and vegetables. While this does not influence the flavor of the produce, it does leave visible damage that makes it less appealing to shoppers. Crops such as apples, peaches, blackberries, sweet and field corn, soybeans, tomatoes, lima beans and green peppers were all damaged last season.

This year, wineries have noticed the insects clinging to grapes that are being harvested for wine, according to usnews.com. If the stink bugs get crushed with the grapes, it only takes 10 of them crushed into one ton of grapes to affect the flavor of the wine. Workers who harvest the grapes have been removing the insects from the clumps by hand.

Scientists have been searching for a way to combat the stink bug problem. One area of research involves using the Asian wasp. The non-stinging wasps lay their eggs inside of the eggs of the stink bugs. The developing wasps then eat the developing stink bugs.

Tests are still being done to determine if the wasps would cause additional problems if they were introduced to areas of the U.S. The tests could take an additional two years to complete before the wasps would be approved for use in orchards, vineyards and gardens.

Every time the idea of controlling one pest species involves introducing another non-native species, I spend a few minutes thinking about the episode of The Simpsons in which Bart lets loose a frog in Australia. Let's hope this wasp they're thinking of introducing isn't like that.

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Just watch this short cartoon to understand why you shouldn't use one species to combat another:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lUekh6bMKJ8
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