Invasive species come out to play and more are on the way

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Who let the bugs out?

After a seemingly endless winter, springtime is finally here, and creatures large and small are coming out to enjoy it. This includes the numerous pesky invasive species that the Department of Natural Resources sends warnings about. The State of Michigan’s website describe them as “non-native species that cause harm when they out-compete native species by reproducing and spreading rapidly in areas where they have no natural predators, changing the balance of the ecosystems we rely on.”

Some might find it surprising that even ladybugs are considered an invasive species and they are now found throughout the United States.

A more recent prevalent pest that continues to weasel its way into Michigan homes is the brown marmorated stink bug, notorious for invading homes in the fall to seek shelter before winter comes. Michigan State University entomologist Howard Russell said that last year was one of the worst for this bug, and this year will be even worse. He has received more and more complaints from locals each year since the species started invading Michigan in 2010. Marmorated refers to the marbled pattern on their shells.

“Four or five years ago, people called me to report only a couple in their homes. Now, people are complaining that they find dozens and that trend will continue to rise. People can expect to see hundreds, if not thousands in the next coming years.”
— Howard Russell

The pest originated on the eastern side of the United States, specifically Pennsylvania, where people can now be seen shoveling these critters off their porches. They do not cause any serious structural damage to homes, but can damage crops.
“They are an important plant pest that will attack tree fruits like apples and peaches as well as garden crops like tomatoes,” says Russell. “Although we have yet to see significant damage to large crops, they are disturbing fields of soybeans and corn.”

Stink bugs are not harmful to people or pets, yet the foul odor they produce when handled makes them a nuisance.

“I see them at least once a day,” said East Lansing resident Rachel Williams. Williams’s bedroom is lined with these fallen soldiers and they quickly get out of control. “Apparently they love my cozy room. I just found one in my bed yesterday.”

Aleks Stanford, another Lansing area resident, has had a similar experience. “I even have tape on my windows to try to prevent them from getting in.” His cats still attempt pest control.

“Of course my cats love to chase bugs. It’s sad when they find these little stink bugs because they’ll try to capture it and get sprayed in the face. It temporarily stuns them because they don’t expect the tiny bug to do anything. Sometimes they even choke if it ends up in their mouth.”
— Aleks Stanford

Russell said that the best way to control stink bugs is to prevent them from getting inside your home in the first place. People can spray the outside of their home in the fall to attempt to control them. Once they get inside, which seems inevitable, it is a little more difficult. “At that point, you’re likely to share their company all winter long,” he says. “You can try to sweep them up, vacuum them up or flush them, but like their name implies, they stink. The foul odor that their scent glands emit will stink up your vacuum.”

One thing is for sure: These bugs continue to be an issue in our area, and are not going anywhere.

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