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Iowa residents deal with invasive stink bugs

Published: Wednesday, Oct. 4, 2017 10:31 a.m. CDT

DUBUQUE (AP) — The indoor migration of a brown insect, about half the length of a quarter, has driven an 11-year-old Dubuque boy from his bedroom.

Kalyn Wernimont vacuumed up 10 to 12 of them nearly every day for a week from the walls and ceiling of her finished attic, which serves as her son Ethan’s bedroom.

But the bugs — specifically, brown marmorated stink bugs — are persistent.

“I vacuumed them all up,” she aid. “Today, there are another 10 to 12 of them up there.”

Ethan is “not having it at all,” Wernimont added. “He runs up there to grab his clothes and is sleeping in the living room.”

As the leaves turn, the insects are appearing throughout Dubuque.

“The outbreak has been occurring for about a week already,” said Roger Voss, co-owner of Voss Pest Control in Dubuque. “We’re seeing them on more and more of our houses.”

He observed brown marmorated stink bugs in about 60 to 70 buildings this season.

They resemble brown shields with a marbled backside. They can be distinguished from other stink bug species by the alternating dark and light bands on the last two segments of their antennae.

Brown marmorated stink bugs are an invasive species native to China, Japan and Taiwan. They have been detected in 44 states, according to the website Stop BMSB, a project funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

In Iowa, the insects have been detected in at least 20 counties, including Dubuque and Jackson.

“We are kind of at the edge of the invasion, and we’re starting to see increasing populations,” said Laura Jesse Iles, director of the Iowa State University Plant and Insect Diagnostic Clinic.

Although harmless to humans — they do not sting nor bite — they are destructive to crops, which they feed upon.

Most disagreeable to city residents might be the odor they produce when disturbed.

“They are not going to hurt anything in the house. They don’t feed on our food. They are just really an annoyance,” Iles said. “I understand they smell like cilantro.”

The stink bugs spend winters hibernating inside buildings, which they enter during the fall.

“They are looking for a place that is sheltered and cool,” she said. “A lot of times, they are attracted to the light of a vertical surface.”

Voss noted he is unaware of an effective “do-it-yourself” method of ridding one’s home of them.

Wernimont fashioned a bug trap using a dish full of liquid soap and a light.

She observed the insects near a window and plans to cover the frame with plastic. If all else fails, Wernimont will call an exterminator.

“I’ve never seen them like this,” she said. “I’ve lived in Dubuque my entire life.”

People in the tri-states can submit specimens to their state’s diagnostic clinic for identification.

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