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Dallas Morning News - October 15, 2018

Stink Bugs - Bad Ones and Good Ones

Green stinkbug - a pest

Green stinkbugs and pretty little red-bellied ones are pests. Both are true bugs, as oppose to beetles, and do damage to plants. They sometimes need controls but other similar bugs are not pests and should be protected. The Brochymena or rough tree sinkbug, the spined soldier bug and other predatory bugs are beneficial. Rather than eating plants, they feed on insects, pest insects in fact. Color makes some of the bugs easy to identify but others are very similar looking at first glance.

Brochymena stinkbug - a good guy

Brochymena or rough tree stink bug’s identifying shoulder spines

The brown marmorated sink bug has been in the news lately. It can be a pest for any gardener or farmer, but has exploded after the heavy rains and is now more damaging to our landscaping than before and hurting crops on a large scale.

Brown marmorarated stinkbug - pest that needs controls

This marmorated stink bug has a look-alike, the Brochymena stinkbug, and it is a beneficial. They are both grayish-brown and about the same size. Treating for all stink bugs is a mistake and wastes money - so how can you tell the difference? The easiest way is to look at the shoulders of the bugs. The good guy’s shoulders are armed with multiple spikes. The pest bug has smooth shoulders. Here are other differences but this a reliable general trait. The helpful spined soldier bug has armed shoulders but with only a single spine. Other beneficials have distinctive colors, spots and other markings.

Four lined plant bug damage - one of the pest true bugs

All the pest true bugs, including four-lined plant bug, leaf-footed bug, green stinkbug, marmorated stinkbug and others can be controlled with the organic products. They can be identified and caught as well with yellow sticky traps, repelled with garlic-pepper tea, coffee and kaolin clay and killed with the low toxicity products such as essential oils, orange oil and once again - coffee. Neem also works but the quality of neem products varies greatly. The dry product, AzaSol is the best. Orange oil should be used at 2 ounces per gallon of water or Garrett Juice. Good essential oil products include Puregro, EcoSafe, EcoSMART and others. Use about a half cup of coffee grounds per gallon of water but filter out the grounds after soaking to prevent clogging the sprayer. Straight coffee grounds can used on the soil around plants to repel several pests. Old coffee can also be used. Just dilute 50/50 with water and spray away.

Four-lined plant bug - showing damage on basil

Four-lined plant bug - red belly is distinctive

Don’t forget that the beneficial stinkbugs and other non-vegetarian insects really are helpful and should be protected. They feed on and help control moths, caterpillars, harmful beetles, aphids and many other pests without hurting plants or people. Our insect book, Texas Bug Book, could help you with identification and management techniques. I hope you become as interested in insects as I have become.

Two spotted stinkbug is a beneficial

Spined soldier bug - good guy

Spined soldier bug - notice the shoulders


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