More on Iowa's foreign invader: new stink bug is like the "Japanese beetle, with sucking mouth parts"

  • Photo

They’ve been called a grower’s nightmare.

The brown marmorated stink bug, an invasive species, has been identified in established populations in Scott County, in southeast Iowa.

“I’ve been likening it to the Japanese beetle, (but) with sucking mouth parts,” said entomologist Laura Jesse of Iowa State University Extension. “Especially with apples, this directly feeds on the fruit and causes huge losses.”

Jesse said damage to Iowa corn and soybean crops potentially could be enormous, along with other fruit and vegetable crops.

“It’s not a terribly picky insect,” she said, citing more than 100 plants on which the bug feeds. Unlike the Japanese beetle, another foreign invader that mostly eats plant leaves and has plagued Iowa growers for years, the stink bug directly eats the fruits of plants and has even been known to devour the bark of nursery trees.

Robin Pruisner, state entomologist for the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, also warned about the possible devastation to Iowa crops.

"Unfortunately, we have a big potential for it to be a big problem here," she said. "It will be a doozy."

Pruisner said there is no need to use pesticides at this time, as the numbers remain small.

A single dead specimen was collected in Cedar Rapids in February 2011, but that bug, along with a few in Iowa City, is thought to have arrived in shipping material.

Jesse said sightings in the Davenport and Bettendorf area are different, because the insects were alive and this is the time of year the bugs are typically active.

The bugs could have migrated from Illinois or been brought to the area in a vehicle from the East Coast, she said.

Brown marmorated stink bugs caused $37 million in damage to Mid-Atlantic apple crops in 2010.

The bugs were first identified in the United States in Pennsylvania in 2001 and have since been reported in 38 states, according to ISU Extension.

A native of Asia, the bugs don’t have predators in the U.S. to control their populations.

Iowans are asked to submit digital photos to help ISU track the bugs’ presence in Iowa.

Jesse said it could be five to 10 years before the populations build enough to cause extensive damage in the state.

Iowa has native brown stink bugs and others that look similar, but those are not as devastating to plants.

“Marmorated” means marbled, a description of the mottled color on the bug’s back. Jesse said the bugs also are identifiable by white banded antennae.

Plant damage is not the only problem caused by the insects.

Similar to boxelder bugs and ladybugs, stink bugs congregate on houses and accidentally wander indoors in the fall.

“It’s a pretty awful accidental invader,” Jesse said, citing the odor and huge numbers of bugs encountered by East Coast homeowners. “You’ll miss the days of the multicolored Asian lady beetles. They’re bigger and they’re really stinky.”



To help ISU track the presence of brown marmorated stink bugs, Iowans can email photos with information about the location to:



Like what you're reading?

We make it easy to stay connected:

to our email newsletters
Download our free apps

Give us feedback

Have you found an error or omission in our reporting? Tell us here.
Do you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.