BALTIMORE (WJZ) — While growers brace for potential crop loss from the brown marmorated stink bug, vineyards are putting out extra effort to keep the pest out of grapes and wine.
Alex DeMetrick reports the insect may be a foreign invader but it has domestic tastes.
Grapes are just coming on in Maryland vineyards and so are brown marmorated stink bugs.
“Oh yeah, they’re out there. They’re out there. I just started seeing them,” said Eric Aellen.
Aellen of Linganore Wine Cellars hasn’t seen a lot yet but it doesn’t take many to cause damage.
“It makes it vulnerable to bunch rot. When the one grape it pokes a hole into starts to rot, it affects all the grapes around it,” Aellen said.
Because the stink bugs are from Asia, they have no natural predator to control them and right now, they are busy reproducing. Small clutches of eggs become immature nymphs with a taste for almost everything Maryland grows.
“Fruit, vegetables, berries, even blossoms. It affects all crops. The only thing we haven’t seen them on is kale and rhubarb,” said Robert Black, Catoctin Mountain Orchard.
“It is a devastating pest. It’s probably one of the biggest pest insects we’ve had in the United States for 40 years,” said Dr. Paula Shrewsbury, University of Maryland.
Early detection is critical. In vineyards, that means more work and more expense.
“It’s important you scout, make certain they’re not in there. If they are in there, you spray and get rid of them,” Aellen said.
It’s not just a matter of finding and killing stink bugs in the vineyard. Extra effort is also needed to keep them out of the wine.
“Well, if you squish them, they do smell really bad, so you don’t want any kind of tainting in the wine,” Aellen said. “We’ve been very careful to keep them out of our product.
It’s not just Maryland wineries on the lookout for stink bugs. Advisories have gone up as near as Virginia and as far away as California.