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Invasive stink bug found in Chilliwack

Backyard gardeners asked to keep eye out for pest that can seriously damage agriculture crops

When Tina Knowlan found a bug on her stove in her Fairfield Island home she made a sharp-eyed connection most people might have missed.

Knowlan had just seen a news story about an invasive species and its arrival in British Columbia, so she contacted the Ministry of Agriculture.

“It was just there out of the blue, dead on the ceramic cooktop about an hour after I saw the invasive species piece on my [Facebook] timeline that CBC did,” she said in an email to Plant and Animal Health Branch entomologist Tracy Hueppelsheuser.

After some back and forth with photos, and delivery of the dead creature to the lab in Abbotsford, Hueppelsheuser confirmed what it was: Halyomorpha halys, commonly known as the brown marmorated stink bug.

So who cares?

“It is a very serious pest that feeds on more than 100 different plant species, according to a Ministry of Agriculture alert. “In 2010, an estimated loss of $37 million due to brown marmorated stink bug feeding was reported by the apple industry in the Mid-Atlantic States.

The stink bug, a native pest of Asia, was first identified in Pennsylvania in 2001 and has since spread throughout the mid-Atlantic U.S. and made its way to California, Oregon and Washington.

By last year it had been detected in Penticton, Chilliwack and even in Kitsilano in Vancouver.

The stink bug is mostly a nuisance to backyard gardeners but can cause agricultural damage. Both adults and nymphs of the species feed by inserting mouth parts into the flesh of fruit, vegetables and leaves. They can be a particular contamination issue for grapes because the presence of a few adults at crush can taint the wine, according to the ministry.

They will attack tree fruits, berries, grapes, vegetables and ornamental plants.

Knowlan said the bug is distinct from the green stink bugs she more commonly has found in her backyard garden.

In an email to Knowlan, Hueppelsheuser said there isn’t much that can be done to stop the spread of the bug in North America but the ministry wants to keep track of its spread.

“It will be helpful to keep an eye on local distribution and if anyone sees any bugs moving into crops or causing any damage besides presences in homes,” she said.

Hueppelsheuser recommends that anyone who finds them inside a home to collect them and put in the freezer for two days to kill. Squishing them is not recommended inside the house because they do smell bad.

Anyone in Chilliwack or the Lower Mainland is asked by the Ministry of Agriculture is asking the public to report any suspected brown marmorated stink bug to contact Hueppelsheuser at 604-556-3031 or tracy.Hueppelsheuser@gov.bc.ca.

paul.henderson@theprogress.com

@PeeJayAitch