Stink bugs are costly home pests

An insect with the unglamorous name of brown marmorated stink bug (BMSB) has made its way to Oregon and is capable of inflicting great damage to not only agricultural crops but to the home garden.

BMSB is an Asian species first found in Pennsylvania in 1996, and by 2010 it had been identified in Oregon in Aurora, McMinnville, Salem and, in the Portland area, from Hillsboro to Sandy and south to Tualatin.

Considered a major agricultural pest in Asia, it attacks tree fruits, peppers, tomatoes, corn, berries, grapes, soybeans and melons. It can even damage young trees and shrubs by feeding through the bark. In Oregon, home gardeners have reported damage to beans, cucumbers, raspberries and several kinds of ornamental plants.

Stink bugs are so named because of the pungent odor they produce when crushed or even disturbed. Adult BMSBs are distinctive, however, because they have antennae with white bands, while most stink bugs have antennae that are dark. The insect itself is brown, and is shield-shaped when viewed from above. Adults are about a 1/2;-inch long.

Eggs are laid in late spring or early summer in clusters on the underside of leaves. Newly hatched bugs are orange and black.

When young, the underside of the insect is light colored, but this darkens with maturity.

The pest is harmless to people and animals. If they are in large numbers, they may try to enter your house when fall approaches, much like box elder bugs do.

This could prove to be unpleasant, given their distinctive odor.

The Department of Agriculture is monitoring the migration of these bugs. We can all help by keeping a watchful eye on our gardens and yards. If you think you have them in your yard, please bring them in to the Plant Clinic at the Southern Oregon Research and Extension Center, 569 Hanley Road, Central Point, for positive identification. They will, in turn, notify the Department of Agriculture.

Summer hours at the Plant Clinic are 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Monday through Friday. You could also bring your suspects to the Jackson County Master Gardener Association booth at the Medford (Thursdays) or Ashland (Tuesdays) Growers Market. Call 541-776-7371 if you have further questions.

If you have any other home horticulture questions or problems, the Plant Clinic, staffed by Master Gardeners, is the place to go for science-based, unbiased help. There is no charge, and they are not trying to sell you anything.

Coming up: Daylilies, those faithful blooming perennials, will be discussed by Master Gardener and daylily breeder Marsha Waite from 7 to 9 p.m. on Thursday, July 14, at SOREC. Daylilies have changed in recent years, with more colors available, and they thrive in our Rogue Valley climate. Waite will discuss how to cultivate and propagate them. Cost is $5. Call 541-776-7371 for further information.

Carol Oneal is a past president of the OSU Jackson County Master Gardeners Association. E-mail her at

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