An unexpected chill factor

It’s taken me until the last day of February to find a satisfying justification for this miserable winter:

Be glad you’re not an Asian stinkbug, which are dying off in large numbers due to the cold, a new experiment shows. The invasive insect, commonly called the brown marmorated stinkbug, has been plaguing homes and devouring agricultural crops in 38 states for years.

Halyomorpha halys is believed to have hitched a ride from the Pacific Rim around the turn of the century. And they’re apparently not used to this sort of thing:

Thomas Kuhar, a professor of entomology at Virginia Tech, and his team have been gathering stinkbugs for the past three years near his campus in Blacksburg, Virginia, to use in lab experiments. The bugs spend the winter outside in insulated buckets that mimic the walls, shingles, and attics that they inhabit when the temperature drops.

That normally works out quite well for the bugs — but this year stinkbugs have been, well, dropping like flies.

“In the previous two years, natural mortality averaged about 20-25 percent,” he wrote in an email. In January 2014, however, Kuhar’s team discovered that the subfreezing temperatures had killed off 95 percent of the population.

So it’s not a total loss. Will a cold-resistant stinkbug emerge? Eventually, perhaps; but evolution generally takes its sweet time for varmints bigger than bacteria.

1 comment

  1. fillyjonk »

    28 February 2014 · 4:35 pm

    Oooh, we can only hope the same is happening to the emerald ash borer.

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