This week’s colloquium again focused on the brown marmorated stink bug (BMSB). While BMSB is best known for terrorizing area residents in their homes, BMSB also feeds on a wide range of plants and is a major agricultural pest of field crops, fruit, vegetables, and ornamentals. In the exciting conclusion to this semester’s colloquium series, Dr. Dilip Venugopal presented his findings from extensive research on the BMSB in mid-Atlantic field crops.
Dr. Venugopal’s work focused on understanding the spatial patterns of stink bug population dynamics. He conducted extensive field surveys to examine these patterns at various spatial scales, which included localized portions of agriculture plots, whole crop fields and the mid-Atlantic region. Dr. Venugopal’s research illustrates the roles of landscape and environment in facilitating the outbreak and spread of stink bugs.
Following the edge survey, the next focus studied the spatiotemporal distributions of stink bug distribution in a field. Dr. Venugopal hypothesized that as corn matures, stink bugs would migrate to soy fields. He found that there was a stage structure difference between the two crops. While small nymphs were primarily found on corn, large nymphs and adults were found on the soy plants. Data also revealed BMSB preferred plants with fruiting bodies (ears of corn or soy bean pods) over those without, particularly the milk and dough stages in corn and pod filling stages in soybean. The movement of large nymphs and adults to the soy is likely due to the nutritional quality of the plants. Bugs favor higher sugar and nitrogen content and BMSB migrated from corn into soy when it was most nutritious.
Based on his findings, Dr. Venugopal concluded the placement and arrangement of crops are important to reducing stink bug outbreaks. Dr. Venugopal recommends the avoidance of shared boundaries of corn and soybeans. Planting times should be considered with an aim to break the synchrony of crop stages. Finally, the high density of stink bugs along field edges makes insecticide treatment of entire fields unnecessary. Instead, insecticide applications could be reduced by limiting treatment to edges only, particularly those bordering woods.
Once considered a secondary agriculture pest, stink bugs have gained increased attention due to the recent introduction of the brown marmorated stink bug. The economic importance of this pest cannot be understated. Last year this bug caused an estimated $73 million in damage to soybean crops across 11 states. Dr. Venugopal research is as a much needed driver advocating necessary changes in crop and pest management practices.
Kevin Ulrich is a PhD candidate in the Thorne Lab. His current research involves host-pathogen relationships and how natural controls can best be utilized in urban environments using Cimex lectularius, the common bed bug, as a model organism. This research is aimed at reducing chemical pesticide reliance in favor of greener and safer alternatives.
Erik Bergmann is a third year masters student in Michael Raupp’s lab conducting research on patterns of host use by BMSB in woody ornamental plant species. He is graduating in August and will be joining Bartlett Tree Experts in June.
Becca Wilson is a first year masters student in Bill Lamp’s lab. She is currently studying the distribution patterns of nuisanceblack flies in Washington County, Maryland.