As a fresh population of stink bugs begins getting its wings, researchers in Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences are seeking help from farmers and homeowners, hoping to estimate damage left behind by stink bugs and possibly prevent it in the future.
York County residents who find stink bugs in their homes, farms and nurseries are asked to report such activity by visiting www.stink
Information gleaned from the website contributors will help researchers learn where and when stink bug populations are developing, said John Tooker assistant professor and entomology specialist for the Penn State Extension.
The website, which uses a Google map interface, shows viewers where infestations are located.
Information is still being collected, but early results show heavy populations of stink bugs in southern Pennsylvania, he said. The most-infested counties include York,
Adams, Cumberland, Dauphin, Franklin, Lancaster and Lebanon.
Researchers are discovering soybean, corn and grain fields between York and Lancaster are among the most susceptible locations, he said, though York County farmers have yet to contribute any reports on the website.
The bugs also thrive well in urban areas and suburbs, which provide them with a voluminous array of ornamental trees, gardens and backyard plants to feed on, he said.
Hitchhikers: Southeastern York County may see more stink bugs this year, as high populations have been reported in both northern Maryland and Virginia. And they travel easily, he said.
"They are good hitchhikers," Tooker said.
The researchers' online tool -- which was launched at the request of the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture and in collaboration with Penn State's Center for Environmental Informatics -- can help determine the stink bugs' paths, and where and when they're active, he said.
"We're at a critical management point, learning that, to control the stink bug population later in the year, we have to first control it in the spring," he said.
While some stink bug nymphs have already been spotted crawling around, they start sprouting their wings in early August.
"We're getting into that part of the year when we see a lot of adult (stink bugs) flying around," he said. "They will begin infesting fields more widely, and their population will grow in the coming weeks."
Learning curve: A lot has been learned about the population of stink bugs since they first appeared in heavy concentrations in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh two years ago. Hailing from China, Japan and Korea, the brown bugs are less than an inch long and can be removed in a number of ways, he said.
Small wasps kill them, insecticides eradicate them from crops, and Tooker recommends individuals crush or flush the bugs upon seeing them.
But, with the help of information collected on the website, he's hoping researchers will find more natural controls -- such as species that attack stink bugs -- to get rid of them.
"That information might provide insight to decrease the stink bug population with time," he said.
-- Candy Woodall can also be reached at cwoo email@example.com.