OKANAGAN - An invasive species of stink bug appears to be making a home for itself in the Okanagan Valley, where researchers recently found more than 1,000 of them in downtown Kelowna alone.
The brown marmorated stink bug, also known as Halyomorpha halys, is an invasive species, originally from China, that was first detected in B.C. in 2015. Last year, a handful showed up in Penticton, but the province didn’t know how widespread the population was in the Okanagan until this year when the Ministry of Agriculture stepped up monitoring efforts.
Between May and October, researchers set up more than 100 “sticky traps” from Salmon Arm to Osoyoos and used pheromones to attract the stink bugs, government entomologist Susanna Acheampong says.
“In most of the regions, we found very low numbers, but Kelowna, we were surprised by the numbers we saw,” she says.
In Penticton, West Kelowna, Glenmore, Rutland, Lake Country, Salmon Arm and Osoyoos, traps picked up between two and six brown marmorated stink bugs. In Kelowna’s downtown core, there were more than 1,000.
“There are lots of hosts in the downtown that they like, trees like mountain ash, maples, honey locusts. They like lilacs,” Acheampong says. “If you go around looking at the trees they like, you would end up finding more than what was on the trap.”
Unlike our native stink bug, the invasive variety is a big problem for backyard veggie gardeners and orchardists.
“They have these needle-like mouths that look like a straw and they feed on fruits,” Acheampong says, adding they will eat apples, peaches, and grapes among other fruits, berries and vegetables.
Fruit affected by stink bugs will have brown spots and imperfections, leaving farmers unable to sell them, Acheampong says.
Unfortunately, the Okanagan is stuck with the little buggers.
“You can’t get rid of them. No one has been able to eradicate them,” Acheampong says.
Perhaps one bit of good news for those who are afraid of insects, is that stink bugs — while they may look a little unnerving — won’t bite.
“Don’t worry about getting close to them,” Acheampong says. “They look a bit ominous but they aren’t going to bite you or suck your blood or anything.”
Anyone who sees a brown marmorated stink bug — distinguishable by white bands on their antennae — should report it to the province. More information on how to properly identify a brown marmorated stink bug, and who to call, can be found here.
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