I recently got a message on my answering machine asking whether or not I thought that stink bugs could become a perennial problem here in Maine.
My answer, sadly, is “yes.” These insects spread north from Mexico many decades ago and have reached most if not all of the various states.
In the south, these bugs breed year-round. But in the north, as in Maine, they overwinter in leaf litter and other vegetation.
Two types of bugs come to mind. One, the Harlequin Bug, a large, slow-moving orange-and-black bug, is said to be in Maine. I can’t recall seeing one of these, however. But, Tarnished Plant Bugs, brown, drab-looking bugs, are common here.
These bugs, in their nymphal form, damage crops by injecting a certain toxin into the plant at the same time they suck out its sap. This causes deformed leaves, stems and of course, produce.
To keep these garden pests at bay, make sure to remove all dead vegetation from your garden. Also, frequently check under boards and similar items, since this is where adult bugs hide.
Sadly, I had not yet removed all the debris from my garden before the big snow fell. And yes, I had a few stink bugs around last year. These will now have some safe places to hide. My only recourse is to get at the garden as soon as snow melts in spring.
The only good thing I can say about stink bugs and their ilk is that they will probably never become as numerous as Japanese beetles, another non-native, insect pest.