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A true bug and a true pest

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The brown marmorated stink bug (BMSB) was recently named USDA’s top “invasive insect of interest;” a prestigious title after appearing in Pennsylvania just 11 years ago. Now BMSB has been found in 39 states, most recently in Iowa.

BMSB is a threat because it is a “true bug,” due to its sucking mouthparts, which puncture plant tissue to drink plant juices. In row crops like corn and soybeans, BMSB targets the grains themselves.

State Entomologist Robin Pruisner sums up the situation.

As Pruisner states, USDA’s Agricultural Resource Service is looking for ways to fight BMSB. At ARS’s Beltsville, Maryland, lab ARS chemists Ashot Khrimian and Aijun Zhang have found one promising early-season attractant: pheromones released by male BMSBs when feeding to attract other BMSBs to the feeding site.

ARS Beltsville lab research leader Dawn Gundersen-Rindal, in a separate effort, has teamed with scientists at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas, to sequence the BMSB genome with the hope that the process will reveal genes critical to BMSB’s survival. In this way, ARS hopes to exploit biological weaknesses to find new ways to fight the pest.

If you have concerns or believe you’ve found a BMSB, contact your county extension office or the ISU Plant and Insect Diagnostic Clinic. You can also send images of the insect to insects@iastate.edu.