PORTLAND, Ore. – The Brown Marmorated Stink Bugs, which have been invading Portland neighborhoods at an alarming rate since the first one was spotted in Ladds Addition in 2004, have now appeared in Washington state.
The first of these non-native stink bugs was found two weeks ago in Vancouver, marking the spread of a non-native stink bug that has already invaded at least 29 states – including Oregon.
And now, they're also moving inside or into warmer crevices as the weather turns colder.
Alyssa Isenstein Krueger has seen enough of these creepy crawlies to go around. These true bugs, found in her outdoor umbrellas and foliage over the summer, are now crawling through floor boards to get into her Ladds Addition home for the winter.
"I actually found one on my bathroom towel last week," Krueger tells us on Nov. 8.
And if you're wondering why they're called stink bugs, well, we found out.
"May you rest in peace," Krueger said, as one is squashed by a shoe.
"Ewww," she said, taking a big whiff. "They do smell kind of like cilantro, like yucky cilantro."
At the Oregon Department of Agriculture, entomologist Jim LaBonte shows off his own stink-bug collection. These ones, however, are already dead – and carefully preserved.
He says there are between 60 to 80 species of native stink bugs.
So how do you tell the good stink bug from the bad non-native one? Well, this is the adult brown marmorated stink bug: the bad one. It has distinctive white bands on its antennae and a smooth shoulder.
On the other hand, the rough stink bug – the good one – has less distinct antennae markings and the shoulders are toothed. The only problem is that when the brown marmorated bugs are young their toothy shoulders help them masquerade as the native species until they molt in the late summer.
Neither bite nor sting nor eat your wood like termites, but the brown ones are a huge concern.
"The brown marmorated stink bug is known to attack over 123 species of plants," LaBonte said. "That includes many crops."
Just ask farmers on the East Coast, in states like Maryland, where stink bugs destroyed a devastating 40 percent of the peach crop.
So how did they get to these non-native bugs get to the U.S.? They likely hitched a ride on a cargo ship from China, Japan, Korea or Taiwan – much the same way as they hitched a ride on a sweater from Ladds Addition to KATU's Sandy Boulevard newsroom.
The challenge, however, has been capturing the bugs intentionally. In October the state began testing funnel and "bucket" traps in stink-bug hot spots, like Southeast and Northeast Portland. So far those traps have not been successful. This comes as Department of Agriculture officials worry that the stink-bug infestation could spread to Oregon's fruit-bearing areas, such as the Hood River valley, next spring.
For now, LaBonte if you find the bugs inside or outside your home – and don't want to crush them (remember the smell) – you can trap them in a sealable plastic bag and freeze them to death. Just remember where you put them. Destroying the population as the bugs are found is key, given that a female "BMSB" can lay 250 eggs over her one-year lifespan.
If you find stink bugs outside the Portland metro area, the Oregon Department of Agriculture wants to know about it. You can call 1-866-INVADER or e-mail a digital photo to Jim LaBonte at the Oregon Department of Agriculture, firstname.lastname@example.org.
– KATU Problem Solver Shellie Bailey-Shah contributed to this report.