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Stink bugs spreading rapidly to new parts of US due to climate change, study warns

The Independent logo The Independent 27/09/2022 Vishwam Sankaran
The brown marmorated stink bug, an invasive insect species from Asia, is seen in a trap on the Catoctin Mountain Orchard © AFP via Getty Images The brown marmorated stink bug, an invasive insect species from Asia, is seen in a trap on the Catoctin Mountain Orchard

Invasive, crop-eating, and foul-smelling stink bugs could become more widespread in the US due to climate change, a new study has warned.

The research, published recently in the journal Pest Management Science, found that changing weather could increase suitable habitat for the brown marmorated stink bug (BMSB) in the US by about 70 per cent.

Scientists, including those from the Washington State University, assessed data from a three-year stink bug monitoring effort in 17 states as well as several potential climate scenarios.

“Every system will change with climate change, so the fact that you can grow garbanzo beans, lentils or wheat without these pests now, doesn’t mean that you will not have them in a few years”, study lead author Javier Gutierrez Illan said in a statement.

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Scientists found in the study that there could be a northward shift in stink bug-friendly conditions.

The Mid-Atlantic, areas surrounding the Great Lakes, and valleys of the West Coast, including the Sacramento Valley in California, and the Treasure Valley in Idaho, are specific regions that may be particularly affected, they say.

However, whether the bugs would thrive in these places depends on the conditions of each area and potential mitigation measures, researchers say.

Studies have shown that the voracious stink bug feasts on nearly 170 different plants including crops and ornamental plants.

It first appeared in the US about two decades ago and has spread coast to coast in this short time span – it is detected in 46 states and is considered a pest in 15 of them.

Researchers say proximity to populated areas may have helped the insects get established in new places with people inadvertently transporting stink bugs in vehicles or farm equipment to areas that would otherwise be hard for them to reach.

While studies have shown that the bugs dislike cold weather, rising temperatures due to global warming and changing patterns of precipitation caused by climate change are causing these bugs to spread to new locations, they say.

“By analysing future climate scenarios, we showed that BMSB populations have a large potential to continue to expand within the US, and particularly northward”, scientists wrote in the study.

“There are mitigating things that we can do, but it is wise to prepare for change”, Dr Illan said.

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