Insect Invaders!: How To Get Rid Of Stink Bugs (Transcript) | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio

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Insect Invaders!: How to Get Rid of Stink Bugs?

MS. REBECCA SHEIR

13:13:46
If you've spent a lot of time indoors trying to beat the heat this week, chances are pretty good you've been sharing your space with some very successful home invaders. We're talking stinkbugs. They're these kind of prehistoric looking little brown critters. They're resistant to pesticides and they're hungry for just about everything.

MS. REBECCA SHEIR

13:14:05
They were somehow introduced into Allentown, Pa. in the 1990s as environment reporter Sabri Ben-Achour tells us, the USDA is experimenting to see if we can bring the invasive insects under control by importing their natural predator, a parasitic Asian wasp.

MR. SABRI BEN-ACHOUR

13:14:22
By now, it almost seems like everyone in the D.C. region has had first-hand experience with the Brown...

MS. MARIANNE BURKHART

13:14:27
Everywhere...

BEN-ACHOUR

13:14:28
...Marmorated...

MR. CHARLES BLACK

13:14:29
...in the couch, in clothing.

BEN-ACHOUR

13:14:30
...Stink Bug...

MR. FABIE MORADIAN

13:14:31
It was all black all over my walls. It was full last year.

BEN-ACHOUR

13:14:34
That's Marianne Burkhart, Charles Black and Fabie Moradian. The shield-shaped insects were introduced from Asia and descended on the region with the fury of a plague last year. If you bother to crush them, the bugs smell like cilantro and burning rubber. But for Bob Black, they're more than just a nuisance.

MR. BOB BLACK

13:14:49
This thing is really going to put a big chapter in my book of life. I've never had anything affect me like this.

BEN-ACHOUR

13:14:56
Black runs Catoctin Mountain Orchard in Thurmont, Md. where his family grows everything.

BLACK

13:15:00
Plums, tomatoes, pears.

BEN-ACHOUR

13:15:02
The apricot blossoms are just starting to come out and Black is starting to worry. Just like many other farmers across the region, Black saw his crops decimated by Marmorated Stink Bugs. With their long needle-like mouthpieces, the insects pierce the flesh of fruits and vegetables and leave them bruised and disfigured.

BLACK

13:15:18
One of my late varieties, Pink Lady, which a lot of people like, that's the latest apple. We had up to 50 percent damage on that. I can handle a few percent, but, you know, it gets up to 25 to 50 percent that is pretty devastating for me.

BEN-ACHOUR

13:15:30
And as Black discovered, his usual pesticides didn't really do much.

BLACK

13:15:34
This one can actually play in it and eat it and it won't even kill it. That's how tough this insect is.

BEN-ACHOUR

13:15:39
And this year will probably be worse.

MR. MIKE RAUPP

13:15:41
We're going to hear a collective wail up and down the east coast and in the metropolitan area as hordes of these things come out of people's attics and try to find their way back outdoors.

BEN-ACHOUR

13:15:50
Mike Raupp is an entomologist at the University of Maryland. He says the population has grown exponentially and he says the bugs are moving outward from the epicenter of Allentown, Pa.

RAUPP

13:15:59
They're now found in more than 30 states as far west as Washington in California, as far south as Florida they've been detected. But right here in the mid-Atlantic region, this is ground zero for the Brown Marmorated Stink Bug.

BEN-ACHOUR

13:16:13
When you boil it all down, the problem is pretty basic, he says.

RAUPP

13:16:16
They simply arrived here without their full complement of natural enemies.

BEN-ACHOUR

13:16:21
And 100 miles away in Newark, Del. that is exactly what the U.S. Department of Agriculture is working on. Outside a red door marked, Quarantine, entomologist Kim Hoelmer and technician Kathy Tatman are suiting up.

MR. KIM HOELMER

13:16:35
If there were an insect that were to be loose in quarantine, which it's not supposed to be, it would stay on the outside of the quarantine suit rather than getting into our hair, inside our shirt so we wouldn't be bringing it back outside again.

BEN-ACHOUR

13:16:49
Behind this door are a myriad of foreign insects being evaluated to see if they can fight invasive foreign pests that have gone wild in North America.

HOELMER

13:16:58
So she has to use this special electronic key to go in.

MS. KATHY TATMAN

13:17:02
If it allows me to open it...

BEN-ACHOUR

13:17:04
Well, actually, all we see is a tiny concrete room with a hugely, heavy door and then another tiny, concrete room with. How many of these chambers are there?

TATMAN

13:17:11
There's one more.

HOELMER

13:17:12
Yeah, three little ante rooms.

BEN-ACHOUR

13:17:14
And finally, we reach a series of dark, glowing red corridors.

HOELMER

13:17:19
See, the light is red to minimize insect flight movement because most insects can't see red. This looks like a dark room to them.

BEN-ACHOUR

13:17:28
Everything is designed to prevent escape.

HOELMER

13:17:30
All of the air and water coming into and out of quarantine is filtered. All the air goes through hepa-filters, which will keep anything larger than a virus from passing through.

BEN-ACHOUR

13:17:41
Tatman pulls out tray after tray of little vials and petri dishes from modules whose temperature, light and humidity are precisely controlled.

TATMAN

13:17:49
This is an insect growth chamber.

BEN-ACHOUR

13:17:51
Inside the little vials, rafts of tiny, pearly, green orbs sit on leaves. They're stink bug eggs and there's something else in there, tiny, black dots are zipping around in the jars. Parasitoid Trissolcus wasps from China, Japan and Korea, just two millimeters long, they don’t look like much more than gnats. They don't bite or sting and they feed on nectar, but in Asia, they are the natural nemesis of the Brown Marmorated Stink Bug.

HOELMER

13:18:18
These small wasps will deposit their eggs inside the stink bug eggs. Then the parasite egg hatches and its immature stage feeds on the inside of the stink bug egg.

BEN-ACHOUR

13:18:29
In a few weeks, out pops a new wasp and no stink bug. Hoelmer says these wasps are extremely specialized evolutionary.

HOELMER

13:18:36
If they can't find stink bug eggs to lay their own eggs in, they'll die. They can't survive on anything else.

BEN-ACHOUR

13:18:43
But there are almost 300 types of stink bugs in the U.S. and a lot of them are helpful because they eat other pests. So Hoelmer needs to know would these wasps ever go after other stink bugs. What about stink bugs that are really, really closely related to the Brown Marmorated Stink Bug? What if they were locked in a jar with no other option? Well, Hoelmer will test exactly that, putting the wasps with different stink bug species to see what happens.

HOELMER

13:19:05
If we've chosen wisely, we have a good picture of the specificity of the wasps. If they won't attack any of the close relatives, they will not be as likely to attack any of the more distant ones.

BEN-ACHOUR

13:19:17
It will take three years before he's satisfied that the wasps don't pose a risk. Hoelmer points to examples where this has worked before. Gypsy moths were controlled by an introduced fungus. White flies in California were cut down by other parasitic wasps. Back at Catoctin Mountain Orchard Bob Black can't wait.

BLACK

13:19:33
Using the wasp, hopefully will be our answer. I mean, we've had other things, drought, other issues, but this insect is one of the toughest things that I've ever had to work on.

BEN-ACHOUR

13:19:42
Until then, seven states are asking the EPA to relax pesticide regulations. Researchers are looking at pheromones, traps and naturally-repellant landscape plants, none of which are considered fully effective. I'm Sabri Ben-Achour.

SHEIR

13:19:58
We want to know what, if anything, you think the government should be doing to try to control stink bugs. Let us know by sending an e-mail to metro@wamu.org or find us on Facebook at Facebook.com/metroconnection.org.

SHEIR

13:20:20
Time for a break, but when we get back, a deal that might just be too good to be true.

MS. NATALIE LANDHART

13:20:25
I think this ticket was only $23. So that's just too good of a deal to pass up.

MR. DAVID SCHULTZ

13:20:30
It's tough to beat.

LANDHART

13:20:30
Yeah. I'll be able to buy my friend a dinner and drinks instead of being worried about how much I spent to get there.

SHEIR

13:20:36
Could the golden era of bus service between D.C. and New York be coming to an end? Plus, one mans fight to make getting around a famous resort town even easier.

MR. BOB MELVIN

13:20:46
I've learned that being old doesn't hurt and using a low key approach doesn't hurt. High key doesn't get you anything.

SHEIR

13:20:54
It's coming up on Metro Connection on WAMU 88.5.
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