Let states use banned insecticide to get rid of stink bugs?
Scientists propose using dinotefuran, a dangerous insecticide currently in limited use, to prevent stink bugs from destroying agricultural crops.
Wednesday, March 23, 2011 - 22:40
BUGGING OUT: The brown marmorated stink bug, seen here, is an invasive, non-native agricultural pest damaging fruit crops across the country. (Photo: Dendroica cerulea/Flickr)
In the past couple of years, many unsuspecting New Jerseyans have been ambushed by an annoying new pest: the stink bug. The brown marmorated stink bug is a small/average-sized bug, colored dark brown and seemingly carrying a shield on its back. You can usually find them clinging to your window shades and blinds, even in your laundry and towels. They can stay in one place for days, but you can tell when they're on the move due to the loud, annoying drone-sound made while flying. If you ever come across one in your home, you'd be wise not to kill it. They have scent glands which, when crushed, unleash a hellishly strong stink that will make you want to gag.
Surprisingly, they aren't even native to North America. According to the Newark Star Ledger, the bugs are probably Chinese imports, "probably arriving in packing material with shipped goods." The bugs were first reported in Allentown, Pa., in 1996, and were first spotted in New Jersey in Milford, in 1999. According to the Penn State Department of Entomology, the bug "has become a serious pest of fruit, vegetables and farm crops in the Mid-Atlantic region and it is probable that it will become a pest of these commodities in other areas in the United States."
Unfortunately, the only pesticide that is expected to truly work against the bugs is called DDT, but this has been banned by the EPA for over 30 years. Finally, however, there is good news to discuss. According to the Associated Press, "apple and peach growers in seven states this year would be allowed to use an insecticide currently not permitted in orchards to fight crop damage from brown marmorated stink bugs, if scientists are able to win a federal emergency exemption by August." If the scientists succeed, fruit growers in New Jersey as well as other states can start spraying insecticide products containing dinotefuran before the late fall months, when the bugs can do the most harm after they’ve entered homes for the winter.
Dinotefuran is used in Japan among other Asian countries to control stink bugs on many different crops, including fruits. The EPA currently only allows the ingredient to be used on vegetables, grapes and cotton, limiting its usage due to potential negative environmental effects. It is highly toxic to honey bees, a crucial player in the growing process of many crops, including fruits.
However, according to Virginia Tech entomologist J. Christopher Bergh, despite the potential negative effects of the dinotefuran, there is a consensus among researchers that because of its known characteristics it is the best candidate for an emergency exemption.
Once you actually see some statistics indicating the havoc the stink bug is wreaking on the agricultural products of these different states, it becomes clear that something needs to be done as soon as possible, and this dinotefuran is probably the best option. According to Robert Black, president of Catoctin Mountain Apple Orchard in Thurmont, N.J., the bugs damaged around 50 percent of their late-season apples.
Fruit growing is an important staple of New Jersey's economy, and all necessary measures must be taken to make sure these invasive bugs don't do any more damage than they are already doing. The insecticide may end up having some negative effects, but until more research is done into another method for prevention, we should go with the dinotefuran.
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