Stink Bugs

Ugh. Stink bugs are another issue that you could very well see in your garden no matter where you live in North America. They are very common and can cause quite a bit of damage. When they are squished they emit a putrid odour, hence their name.

Stink Bug
By David R. Lance, USDA APHIS PPQ
Image #1460048 at Invasive.org

Stinkbugs come in a variety of appearances and colour patterns. They can be bright green, grey, blue or red with sometimes different colour patches on their shield shaped shell. They are usually 5/8″ long. Sometimes their body shape is slightly different depending on the region of the continent that you live.

When my son was very young and I had no idea what this bug was, we decided that it should be called an “Interesting Bug”…even before he could correctly say the word interesting. That was no problem for years, even when I saw them in my large, rural garden I didn’t pay much attention.

Two Little Stinkbugs on Yellow RaspberryHowever, fast forward a really long time and a year and a half ago I had a weak moment when I saw the yellow raspberry plants at Walmart. I should know better and remember that Walmart doesn’t exactly carry high quality and well cared for plant stock.

Against my better judgement, I bought them anyway and planted them at home. It didn’t take long for me to notice this same bug by the dozens all over my yellow raspberry plants in my new garden at my new house. Gross. These plants were completely infested with these insects.

The picture to the right shows a couple of small stink bugs sitting on a raspberry in the morning sun. It was then that I realized that I had a big problem on my hands. If I had stink bugs of this size then I definitely have a full infestation.

They stressed out the plants to the point that they didn’t produce properly as the season went on so I had to throw out most of the harvest last year. I tried to use diatomaceous earth to combat them but I didn’t use it enough to make a difference.

Diatomaceous Earth
Diatomaceous Earth

Diatomaceous Earth kills a variety of insects, including stink bugs. It’s a dusty powder that contains a mixture of crushed fossilized algae (diatoms) that are sharp to insects with exoskeletons. You can use Diatomaceous Earth indoors or outdoors to eliminate your stink bug problem wherever it is occurring.
Read more about Diatomaceous Earth.

Since I only had a small bottle of it, I decided at the end of the season that the best plan was to cut the plants completely to the ground. Even though it would be sacrificing a lot of my harvest this year. My thought was that the bugs would move off and find a different place to be. If I had more DE in the fall, I probably would have fought harder to save them from the stink bugs, but I decided to cut my losses.

Spring is just beginning to emerge in my neighborhood and I went out to “dust” off the garden and start to clean it up for the spring and summer season.

Well…ALL of my sick yellow raspberry plants are dead, not one survivor. I’m not sure if it was the stress of the bugs or the stress of my cutting them down or the snow and cold weather this winter that killed them but nonetheless they’re dead.

Over the winter I bought a big bag of diatomaceous earth for the garden this year, but I didn’t realize that I ordered such a lifetime supply of it.

I was planning for a springtime stink bug battle that I guess isn’t going to happen now. I suppose it’s good in a way, I don’t have yellow raspberries but I have quite a bit of soil space to grow all sorts of other things. I’ll make sure to post about those as they happen. I’ll go to a proper nursery as soon as I can and buy good quality berry stock to replace them. 

I pulled a couple of the yellow raspberry plants in the fall last year, but those containers quickly got claimed by more Pink Lemonade Blueberries. Yummy. Stinkbugs attack a wide variety of vegetables and fruit including beans, okra, peppers, squash, and tomatoes. They like fruit plants too.

Both the adults and the nymphs will attack plants and cause damage. They suck sap from buds, blossoms and fruit. The fruit becomes misshapen and dimpled with an unpleasant texture inside.

In the spring, they lay clusters of eggs on the underside of leaves. The young that hatch from these eggs mature into adults in six weeks. Therefore, several generations can occur within one growing season.

Pesticides containing carbaryl will help fight them, but the treatment must be applied every 7 to 10 days if you have a lot of them. Otherwise watch for their appearance and then apply the pesticide.

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