Thursday, November 8, 2012

Tracking Invasive Insects Using Your Smartphone

As the days grow shorter and the evening temperatures cool, hobos of the insect community begin making their way to our doorstep. Reduced light and temperature act as a switch to halt their feeding frenzy, turning now to find shelter for the winter months that lay ahead. Having stocked up on food reserves, they intend to use our homes as over wintering sites, guest cottages if you will, to increase their chance of survival.

Two invasive insects making their way into our homes include the newly invasive brown marmorated stink bug and the multicolored Asian ladybird beetle. Both are exotic species that hail from regions of China, Korea, and Japan yet readily adapted to climates and habitats in the U.S. They are most commonly found this time of year gathering on the sun-facing exposure of structures, restlessly making their way into the upper rooms and attic of your home. In the spring, they will all leave.

As is the nature of the lady beetle family, Coccinellidae, the multicolored Asian ladybird beetle is considered a beneficial insect, a predator of insect pests, especially fond of aphids. The adult ladybeetle has your storybook red and black color scheme, yet can exhibit a range of body colors from cream to bright red with few to none to many black dots over its abdomen. Asian lady beetles can, however, become troublesome when they damage late season crops such as grape, berry or apple. If aphids are plentiful, the Asian lady beetles will feast, reproducing successfully to develop high populations, then taking to the wing in swarms toward buildings early in October. Once inside, beetles can become scarce during the colder parts of the winter, hibernating as temperatures drop below 50 degrees F. Although on warmer sunny days, they may awaken to find their way into inhabited areas of the house.

The brown marmorated stink bug (BMSB), a Pentatomid bug, is often confused with three other home invaders; the western conifer seed bug, boxelder bug and the squash bug. This newcomer to the region gets its name from the brown marbeling pattern it exhibits. The striping on its antennae, striped pattern along the abdomen and smooth shoulders are the key to its identity.

It can feed extensively on agricultural crops, causing damage to peach, apple, grape and most vegetable crops in the Mid-Atlantic States in 2010. It has recently become an agricultural pest in the Hudson Valley as well as a homeowner pest as they too escape the cold to move inside buildings during the winter months. Repairing broken screens and excluding insects by sealing cracks around windows, doors, siding, utility pipes, behind chimneys, and underneath the wood fascia and other openings with high quality silicone or silicone-latex caulk is the best method to keep these invasives from entering your home. A portable vacuum with a disposable canister, designated for insect removal, provides for quick disposal of those pesky ones that make it past the front door.

Cornell University’s Hudson Valley Laboratory Research Entomologist partnering with Cooperative Extension Specialists hope to collect, verify and document the spread of this invasive species as a way to help residents and agricultural producers understand the stink bug population distribution and lessen its impact. Anyone who has seen this pest is asked to send an image or sample to Cornell Cooperative Extension. Images can be e-mailed to Phones with location software enabled such as iPhones, Androids and BlackBerrys can all geotag photos with GPS locations to help us map the location where your specimen was photographed.

For readers who are interested in joining the Citizen Science BMSB project they are now accepting clear close-up images of the brown marmorated stink bug to track the spread of this new insect to New York State.

If ‘live’ insect specimens are submitted they should be placed in a small plastic container, such as a medicine bottle or film canister, with a submission form from the extension’s website, filled out and mailed to Peter Jentsch, BMSB Project, Cornell Hudson Valley Lab, P.O. Box 727, Highland, N.Y. 12528.

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Community news stories come from press releases and other notices from organizations, businesses, state agencies and other groups. Submit your contributions to Almanack Editor Melissa Hart at

One Response

  1. Peter H says:

    We definitely have to protect our forests from invasive species. See this video:

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