It’s unknown if the brown marmorated stink bug (BMSB) can live in the major agriculture-producing areas of California. Researchers say if it can, large populations could take over crops by the tens of thousands.
Researchers are concerned about the impact the BMSB will have on California agriculture. Cooperative Extension specialist with the University of California at Berkeley, Kent Daane, recently attended a nationwide BMSB conference. He said there is concern about California agriculture because of the pest’s history. “In 2010 on the East Coast, it caused a tremendous amount of damage to stone fruit, vegetable crops and to all kinds of pome fruits like pears,” Daane said.
It’s unclear what the pest will do when it comes across nut crops, but researchers assume the worst. Daane said the issue is the sheer numbers of the pest infesting crops. “On the East Coast, there are famous pictures of people sweeping thousands and thousands of them off their porch,” he said. “It has a tremendously large host range. It can go from one plant, to another and another and build these large aggregations.”
Daane spoke at the South Valley Nut Conference about the possibility of the bug being a pest in pistachios. He said if those large populations got established in the Central Valley, a lot of crops could be simply overtaken. “If that happens, it could come into the pistachio orchards not just by the thousands, but by the tens of thousands, and you wouldn’t be able to put on enough insecticides to control it,” Daane said.
The uncertainty in this scenario is due to the fact that it’s unknown how the bug will survive on the West Coast. Daane said the bug is known to be in the state, but it is not known if the pest can handle the Mediterranean climate of the major agriculture areas. “We don’t know if it can survive in these hot, dry summers here in the Central Valley,” he said. “We do know it’s in California, with populations fairly high in Sacramento, Southern California and Riverside. And we do know it’s in the Central Valley, but we just haven’t seen any of those large populations near any of our agricultural crops.”