Stink bug predator shows promise

Local researchers are key players

CORVALLIS — As the brown marmorated stink bug spreads across the state, Oregon State University is studying how to use bug-on-bug warfare to stop this crop-damaging pest.

The insect arrived in the eastern United States in the late 1990s and has since spread to more than 30 states. The non-native bug was found in Portland in 2004 and has since shown up in 13 Oregon counties, including Hood River and all of the Willamette Valley.

But populations in Oregon are still relatively low in most areas, according to OSU estimates. Although the pest has caused major commercial crop damage in many eastern states, so far it has had minimal impact on Northwest crops.

To keep it that way, OSU researchers are looking to a non-pesticide solution: a tiny wasp imported from China. Smaller than a pinhead, the wasp, known as Trissolcus halyomorphae, lays its eggs in the brown marmorated stink bug’s eggs. A video OSU made showing this process can be viewed at www.bit.ly/YbMuLh.

The potential release of the wasp in the field could still be years away as researchers need to first test its behavior in quarantine to determine if it discriminates between the brown marmorated stink bug’s eggs and those of other species. Canada and Mexico must also agree to the wasp’s introduction.

“The problem with the introduction of biological control organisms is that bugs don’t recognize borders like we do — we don’t want to release something that causes more harm than good,” said Hood River based entomologist Peter Shearer, who’s leading OSU’s stink bug research.

“We want to do this right because rarely do we have an ample opportunity to deal with a problem that has the potential to be this bad.”

Oregon farmers fear the insect could severely affect crops if its numbers continue to swell. It has already been spotted near some large agricultural operations in Oregon. The bug isn’t a picky eater, having shown a taste for more than 100 types of crops, including corn, wine grapes, hazelnuts, pears, apples and sweet cherries.

It leaves behind discolored patches on the food, which is still safe to eat, but the cosmetic blemishes make the products largely worthless in the marketplace.

“It’s more of a list of what it doesn’t eat than what it does feed on,” said Vaughn Walton, an entomologist at OSU. “Identifying where the bug is found is an ongoing effort. Unfortunately, it has been detected in many of Oregon’s major agricultural areas and the populations are increasing. It looks like it could be a problem soon in some areas based on populations we found in 2012.”

OSU researchers are using this field data to plot an even more aggressive tracking strategy for 2013. In the meantime, Oregonians can assist the effort by reporting sightings to bmsb@hort.oregon-state.edu.

“A lot of the finds we’ve made the past few seasons are because of the public chipping in,” said Nik Wiman, a postdoctoral scientist at OSU’s research center in Hermiston, who is studying the insect. “Without it, we would not have as good a picture of how the bug has distributed through the state.”

In the winter, the brown marmorated stink bug seeks shelter indoors, often in attics, garages and dark, moist places. It can be confused with other insects, so the OSU Extension Service has published a two-page guide for the public on how to distinguish it from look-alikes at www.bit.ly/102dyIw. The document is also in Spanish at www.bit.ly/S9oHbB. More information on the bug is at www.bit.ly/Va0m7N.

OSU is one of 11 institutions researching the brown marmorated stink bug in an effort funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Oregon Hazelnut Commission and the Oregon Wine Board. OSU graduate student Chris Hedstrom has also contributed to the project.

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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See www.co.hood-river.or.us to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge



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