Stink bugs are in abundance in the Okanagan this fall | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Stink bugs are in abundance in the Okanagan this fall

Brown marmorated stink bug
Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons
October 09, 2021 - 7:30 AM

Some Okanagan gardeners have been noticing more stink bugs around their homes this year.

They don’t pose much of a problem – except for one subspecies, says an entomologist for the B.C. government.

“Brown marmorated stink bugs have been found around the downtown Kelowna area, but they haven’t really moved into orchards and the wineries yet,” said Susanna Acheampong, entomologist with the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food.

The brown marmorated stink bugs were first discovered in B.C. in 2015 in the Fraser Valley. By 2016, they were detected in Penticton, and shortly after they were found in Kelowna. They have been found in many parts of the Okanagan, but have not been reported in Kamloops yet. 

Brown marmorated stink bug detections in Interior British Columbia from 2016 to 2020.
Brown marmorated stink bug detections in Interior British Columbia from 2016 to 2020.
Image Credit: BC Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Fisheries

They get their name from a defence mechanism – their ability to produce chemicals which release a strong smell that make them unappetizing to predators.

“It’s unpleasant and no predator wants to eat that,” Acheampong said, adding that stink bugs have different odours depending on the subspecies.

She’s heard people say brown marmorated stink bugs smell like cilantro, “but it doesn’t smell like cilantro to me.”

The bugs only release the stink when they feel threatened of injured. But their foul smell doesn’t alarm the Ministry – it’s the damage they can potentially cause to crops that keeps the brown marmorated stink bug on Acheampong’s radar. They have the ability to cause significant damage to crops, and she said once they establish themselves in an area, they become difficult to remove.

“If you find one you are likely to find more.”

READ MORE: 5 nasty bugs in the B.C. Interior you might want to stay on top of

Acheampong and her colleagues have zeroed in on downtown Kelowna as the epicentre, where the bugs can’t cause much damage. Traps, which release a pheromone that is attractive to only Brown marmorated stink bugs so they don’t catch any other insects, were in place from May until the end of September. Data is still being collected from the traps before 2021 can be compared to previous years.

The bugs are brown with a marbled shell, and she said their most distinctive feature is the white spots on their antennae. Acheampong would like to hear from anybody in B.C. who may have seen brown marmorated stink bugs in the area. Those with photos to share with her can go to this link.

Invasive stink bugs caught on a sticky trap.
Invasive stink bugs caught on a sticky trap.
Image Credit: B.C. Ministry of Agriculture

Thankfully, most of the stink bug photos Acheampong has received this summer have been of the conchuela stink bug, which are much less of a concern in terms of property damage, although they are known for feeding on grapes and garden vegetables.

“That was a common one we saw around this year.”

Conchuelas are native to America. They have black shells with a colourful line around the perimeter, and the colour varies by region – in the Okanagan their colour is orangey-red, she said.

Acheampong said conchuela stink bugs come in cycles.

“When there’s hot weather and an abundance of food you are likely to see more of them.”

Also spotted around yards in the Okanagan this year are the western conifer seed bug. They spray a foul-smelling odour as a defence mechanism, but are not technically stink bugs, and are native to America.

As the temperatures drop this time of year, homeowners may notice western conifer seed bugs trying to get inside to stay warm for the winter. They can be a nuisance but do not present any real issues to homeowners, she said.

“You can vacuum them if you see them coming into the home. The first line of defence is to try to prevent them from coming into your home.”

If the bugs spray their chemical inside the home after being squashed by a paper towel, Acheampong recommends cleaning the area with soapy water.

READ MORE: Tiny bugs wearing woolly coats seen in huge numbers around Kamloops, Okanagan

Western conifer seed bug
Western conifer seed bug

To contact a reporter for this story, email Dan Walton or call 250-488-3065 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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