‘Invasive’ Stink Bugs Are About to Take Over the U.S., According to Scientists

by Caitlin Berard
(Photo by: Edwin Remsburg/VW Pics via Getty Images)

In a recent modeling study conducted by Washington State University, scientists determined that the United States could face a major stink bug problem in the near future.

Most of us have probably seen a stink bug on a window or near a door in our homes. They’re found in most states in the country but are especially prevalent in those on the east coast. Obviously, a bug or two is nothing to worry about. The new study, however, found that the “invasive” species is spreading at a rapid pace.

Soon, the “foul-smelling invaders” could become a far greater problem. According to the scientists from WSU, the brown marmorated stink bug (BMSB), a “foul-smelling, voracious, wide-spread pest,” is already “readily established throughout much of the United States.”

With the rising temperatures around the globe due to climate change, the suitable habitats for the invasive pest could increase by as much as 70 percent. This is a problem on many levels. Not only does it pose a threat to the balance of ecosystems across the country but could also cause major economic damage to crops.

“Invasive species threaten the productivity and stability of natural and managed ecosystems,” the scientists warned in their study.

“Every system will change with climate change,” lead author and WSU entomologist Javier Gutierrez Illan said in a statement. “So the fact that you can grow garbanzo beans, lentils, or wheat without these pests now, doesn’t mean that you will not have them in a few years. There are mitigating things that we can do, but it is wise to prepare for change.”

Study Finds Stink Bugs Are Rapidly Spreading ‘Northward’

The brown marmorated stink bug is native to China, Japan, and Korea but appeared in the U.S. 20 years ago. Since its arrival, the invasive species has spread across the country, reaching the largest populations in warm climates.

Their dislike of the cold is why stink bugs are most often found indoors in the fall and early winter. Currently, the insect can be found in 46 states. However, it’s only classified as a pest in 15. The remaining states don’t have large enough populations to cause an issue.

According to Washington State University researchers, however, those numbers are about to change drastically. The pests find new homes on unsuspecting travelers’ cars and belongings. And if the weather is to their liking, the population begins to grow.

As the insects continue to spread and temperatures continue to rise, the United States could be facing an explosion in stink bug populations in the not-so-distant future. Instead of being confined to the southern areas of the country, they’re slowly moving northward as well.

“By analyzing future climate scenarios, we showed that BMSB populations have a large potential to continue to expand within the US,” the scientists wrote. “And particularly northward.”