Polar vortex may have slowed stink bug invasion

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Finally, some good news about the bad weather. The frigid polar vortex has taken a toll on the stink bug population. In fact, in an experiment conducted at Virginia Tech, 95 percent of the stink bugs under observation were killed by the recent cold arctic blast. That may bode well for the warmer months, reports the Capital Weather Gang at the Washington Post. Here’s what happened.

Each fall, Thomas Kuhar, an entomology professor at Virginia Tech, and his team gather stink bugs and put about 100 into each of a number of insulated 5-gallon buckets that are then stored outdoors in a sheltered area. The containers mimic the places where stink bugs like to spend the winter such as your attic and inside the walls of your house. Apparently, the bugs are beasts at surviving cold temperatures. But not this time.

A few weeks ago, the Weather Gang reports, Kuhar pulled out his first set of buckets and found that the sustained frigid temperatures had resulted in a 95 percent kill rate. “There should be significant mortality of BMSB (brown marmorated stink bugs) and many other overwinter insects this year,” Kuhar told the Weather Gang. Let’s all join in and voice a collective “Yahoo!”

Virginia is one of the mid-Atlantic states, including Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia, that has the largest and most damaging infestations of stink bugs. But the beetles have been found in 40 states, including Hawaii. Because they have no natural predators here, they’re on the USDA’s most wanted list of invasive species.

If the bugs have been finding their way into your home, try to locate the openings where they came in. Typically, stink bugs will crawl through cracks under or behind baseboards, around window and door trim, and around exhaust fans or lights in ceilings. Seal these openings as well as you can with caulk or other suitable materials.

We’ll have to wait until the growing season to see how many stink bugs survived the winter. In the meantime, we can live in hope that there will be fewer of the smelly, buzzy pests when the weather warms. The Capital Weather Gang is forecasting another cold winter blast from the end of February into the beginning of March. We say, bring it on.

—Mary H.J. Farrell



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