Washington Secrets

Stink bug crisis reaches 38 states, Pacific Coast

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Photo - The brown marmorated stink bug
The brown marmorated stink bug
Paul Bedard,Washington Secrets

The Chinese-exported stink bug crisis that has ruined apple, peach and grape harvests up and down the East Coast has now reached a frightening 38 states and the Pacific Coast, prompting Congress to push the Agriculture Department to speed up the search for an assassin of the "brown marmorated stink bug."

Tucked away in the House-passed Farm Bill is $831,000 to fund added research of the bug and what will kill it. "This pest is causing significant damage to agricultural products, particularly the apple crop in mid-Atlantic states," said the report.

Apple orchard operators as close to Washington as Frederick, Md., and Winchester, Va., home to the Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival, have been socked by the bug that bruises fruit with a simple and initially undetectable bite. Virginia's vineyards have complained that their wines can be ruined if just a few of the stink bugs get crushed in their grapes.

Mid-Atlantic apple growers alone are reporting losses of nearly $40 million a year and now there are reports from Oregon's orchards that the bug has landed there.

Agriculture officials are studying the use of a miniscule Chinese bee to control the stink bug population. The bee lays its eggs in stink bug eggs, killing them.

The House-approved funds, which are non-controversial and are expected to be approved by the Senate, were heralded by Rep. Frank Wolf, whose northern Virginia district includes Winchester. "Clearly these bugs are spreading and they are more than just a nuisance because they smell. They have the potential to devastate crops - apple crops, peach crops, grapes. We have to get a handle on it."

But an associate of Wolf said the situation is becoming dire. "The language in the farm bill is designed to keep pressure on the department to address problem, which is spreading. We have seen reports that they have appeared in at least 38 states," he said.

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