Brown marmorated stink bug in soybean, summary to date (Dr. Ames Herbert)

The brown marmorated stink bug (BMSB) which was first identified in 2001 in Allentown, PA, is now infesting soybean fields in parts of Virginia. This stink bug, although similar in appearance to our native brown-colored species, can be easily distinguished by the white bands on their antennae, and the white bands on the legs of nymphs. BMSB is a known pest of many crops, wreaking havoc on fruit crops, wine grapes and many vegetable crops, especially sweet corn. Although the epicenter for this pest is still the mid-Atlantic region (PA, DE, MD, VA and WV), a few have been found in states as distant as California. BMSB, like our native stink bug species, feeds directly on developing soybean pods and seed. If the damage occurs very early in seed development, pods will be flat and brown, but still be attached to the plant and easy to see. If damage occurs later in seed development, pods will appear yellow and speckled, and opening the pod will reveal damaged, crinkled, stained seed. Last summer (2010) we began a monitoring program for BMSB in soybean and found them in soybean fields in 15 Virginia counties, but always in low numbers. In Maryland where they had seen these same kinds of low numbers the previous year (2009), last summer (2010) they found large infestations on field edges. The same pattern has occurred for us. This summer (2011) we have found several fields with very high numbers. So far, the heavily infested fields are confined to one geographical areathe north-central piedmont counties of Orange, Culpeper, Madison, Fauquier and Clarke. Very low numbers have been reported in other counties. A pattern seems to be emerging that is playing well for us in terms of managing BMSB in soybean. To date, yield threatening infestations seem to be confined to field edges, not going beyond 30 to 50 feet into the field. Heavy infestations also seem to be associated with fields with wooded borders, especially if there are concentrations of the invasive weed, Tree-of-Heaven (Ailanthus altissima). Both BMSB and Tree-of Heaven are native to China and other parts of Asia. BMSB seems to be strongly attracted to that host, especially when the trees are putting out their seed clusters. Not coincidently, the north-central piedmont area where we are finding the highest densities of BMSB in soybean is the area with the highest concentration of Tree-of-Heaven. I encourage you to Google Tree-of-Heaven and become familiar with what it looks like. This strong field edge effect has made it possible for our local soybean growers to make edge treatments applying insecticides in one spray-boom width around a field, without having to treat the entire field. We are revisiting as many of these edge treated fields as often as we can, and so far, the edge treatments are holding. Another bit of good news is that many of the insecticides commonly used in soybean are effective against BMSB. This summer, we were able to put out three insecticide trials in growers fields in Orange County and most of the products we applied worked very well (including Baythroid XL, Belay, Brigade, Cobalt Advanced, Endigo ZC, Lannate LV, Orthene 97, and Vydate L). The problem for fruit growers is not that they cannot kill these critters, it is that they continue to reinvade their orchard which necessitates repeated sprays. Will this also occur in soybean fields? We are not certain. How should growers react to this new pest? We are recommending that growers stay vigilant until the latest planted fields reach the R7 growth stage when beans would no longer be susceptible to stink bug feeding. Scout field edges, especially fields with wooded edges with clusters of Tree-of-Heaven. Use a sweep net to sample the plants by making successive 15-sweep samples. We have no exact threshold, but suggest that greater than an average of 4 adults or nymphs per 15-sweeps would constitute a risk to the pods and seed. We have encountered fields with 8 to 10 per 15 sweeps, and in some extreme cases, more than 20 to 30 per 15 sweeps. So, the bad news is we have another established insect pest of soybean in Virginia. The good news is we have already made some progress in terms of how best to manage it. As a final note, we are also in the process of doing field cage studies to determine 1) how damage by BMSB may differ from damage by our native stink bug species, and 2) what a damage threshold might be more on this later.

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