'Stink bug' threatens NW farms, vineyards

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by Keely Chalmers

NWCN.com

Posted on July 11, 2012 at 12:33 PM

Oregon vineyards and farms are facing a new potentially devastating invade, the brown marmorated stink bug from Asia.

Brian McCormick has been growing grapes at his organic vineyard in Mosier for six years. He's had his challenges along the way, but is gearing up for what he believes could be his biggest challenge yet.

“Now we have this new marmorated stink bug coming in,” he stated.

About three weeks ago, Oregon State University post doctoral researcher Nik Wiman discovered a well established population of the bug in Hood River, a city surrounded by agriculture.

“It sounds frightening," he said, "We sort of think of it as the end of the world."

The fear comes from the fact that these almost indestructible bugs reproduce every few days, have a voracious appetite for almost every kind of crop, and can resist almost all pesticides.

“These are like tanks of the insect world," said Peter Shearer, a professor of entomology at Oregon State University.  " When I first saw this my jaw dropped and I figured it was going to become a big problem.”

"In 2010 it destroyed about 50 percent of Pennsylvania’s peach crop and $40 million worth of apples in the mid Atlantic states,” said Shearer, who has been studying the brown marmorated stink bug for more than a decade.

The concern is that Oregon farmers could suffer the same economic blow if the bug were to get into their crops.

But Shearer says there is hope. Wiman also discovered a tiny wasp that kills the stink bugs eggs.

Shearer believes we have about two years before the marmorated stink bug makes its way into crops in our area.

The USDA recently funded a multimillion dollar grant to find ways to stop it.

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