Press-Republican

FYI...

March 7, 2014

Polar vortex may prove to be a powerful pesticide

(Continued)

An experiment conducted by an entomology professor at Virginia Tech gave him hope. Stink bugs placed in foam insulated buckets had a 95 percent death rate when temperatures hovering around zero persisted for days.

The bucket simulated overwintering hideouts in Blacksburg used by stink bugs to protect themselves from the cold.

The conclusion? "There should be significant mortality of [stink bugs] and many other overwinter insects this year," the professor, Thomas Kuhar, told The Washington Post Capital Weather Gang last month.

But Raupp, who called Kuhar "a top-notch researcher," is more guarded. Blacksburg had a few days at 4 degrees below zero, but Maryland did not.

A research entomologist for the Agriculture Department also has low expectations. When researchers for the USDA visited outdoor sites in Maryland where stink bugs spend the winter, they found the same mortality rate - about 50 percent - as in earlier winters.

"Unfortunately, they're doing just fine," said the entomologist, Tracey Leskey.

Stink bugs are from China, where temperatures often plummet. Even if they did die in bunches, they enter "winter with an enormous population," so plenty of survivors rush out in spring to multiply.

A large group of stink bugs cozied up in the warm homes of residents who couldn't seal enough cracks to prevent them from slipping through.

"Every day, I've had a stink bug wandering across my desk," Raupp said. "They're doing fine in my house."

It might seem that frequent snowfall would help kill the bugs, entomologists said, but instead it insulates and protects them.

As if stink bugs weren't bad enough, another invasive bug from Asia has made its way to Maryland. Detected in Georgia in 2009, the soybean-loving kudzu bug has since decamped toward the north.

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