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  • From: Don Yellman <>
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  • Subject: [NAFEX] Stinkbugs Defeat Apple Bags
  • Date: Thu, 31 Mar 2011 21:36:47 -0400

1. At the risk of stinkbug overload after previous coverage of this topic, there is one more feature of these insects that I think is worth mentioning. Unlike any other insect I have seen, the stinkbug is capable of penetrating the plastic sandwich bags that many of us use for protecting apples.

2. Apparently, the brown marmorated stinkbug has a feeding tube that is long and sharp enough to puncture plastic and continue on into the flesh of apples. The result is to alter and discolor the cells of the apple down to a depth of one-half inch or more below the skin. Damage is usually so extensive, that ripe apples are rendered practically useless for anything but cider. Certainly they would not be marketable, although the home grower can cut off much of the apple and still wind up with something to eat. The condition under the skin resembles what I have always (perhaps mistakenly) called corky spot. I have always believed this was caused by calcium deficiency, but it may have been stinkbugs all along.

3. Because the 2010 season was the first that I have noticed such an infestation of these insects (though they may have been present in smaller numbers before), and even though I knew they were present on the trees, I never saw one in an apple bag and was confident the bags would protect the apples just as they do from other insects. The stinkbug seems to be a warm-weather insect, and didn't really get going until August into September here. Earlier apple varieties like Yellow Transparent escaped damage completely, but the midseason and later apples were devastated. No problems were observed on peaches, plums or apricots, most of which are down before mid-August. The best and most beautiful of the apples, such as Goldrush, Fuji, Pink Lady, Ashmead's, Albemarle Pippin, Blushing Golden, etc. were practically ruined. Meanwhile, the stinkbugs were also attacking crops like tomatoes and peppers, leaving telltale areas of white cells beneath the skin. It seems that as soon as sugar begins to show up in a fruit or vegetable, and the weather is warm, the stinkbug is waiting.

4. I am preparing apple bags for this season now, but I am clearly going to have to take additional measures to keep this from happening again. Permethrin seems to knock down the stinkbug pretty well, although it seems hard to kill with other insecticides. I am prepared to spray the trees with bagged apples, but this strategy will work only if an insecticide has a residual effect on the stinkbug. I seem to recall that Alan had observed little residual effect in his efforts to control this insect. If he is right, as he frequently is, I really don't what I would do next. Until USDA or someone comes up with a solution to this infestation, I will be experimenting and looking for an insecticide that would give me some extended protection without having to spray 2-3 times a week.

5. We have watched stinkbugs emerge around the house, greenhouse, and even garage all winter long on sunny days, so they are certainly not gone. I don't understand their life cycle or reproductive habits well enough to know the signs of trouble for next season. Certainly, this stinkbug is different, and far more numerous and aggressive than others of this species that I have seen before.

6. As a hobby grower, this is not an issue that affects my livelihood, but I surely sympathize with the commercial growers that still survive in the MD/VA area and along the east coast. Not to mention Alan Haigh, whose business is fruit tree care.

Don Yellman, Great Falls, VA

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