By Alex DeMetrick

BALTIMORE (WJZ)– Predictions this past spring that Asian stink bugs would have an impact on crops appear to be coming true.

Alex DeMetrick reports the highly destructive pest is being found on just about everything that grows.

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The community garden near Columbia looks lush and is, especially for brown marmorated stink bugs. A hitchhiker that rode in on cargo from Asia six years ago, these foreign invaders have no natural predators in the U.S. They exploded last year.

“It was not good,” said Dr. Mike Raupp from the University of Maryland. “It was another bad year for our fruit growers. These are highly mobile pests. Right now, they’re shifting into things like our sweet corn. So we’re getting significant damage now in our vegetable crops.”

At the beginning of summer, researchers saw the signs in orchards. Young fruit showed brown spots called corking, where bugs made a meal.

“If there’s a crop they want to get after, they’re finding a way to get in,” said Bryan Butler from the University of Maryland Extension Service. “They’re happy with peaches or tomatoes or plums or cherries. Whatever they can get.”

In Pat Haydon’s garden, she’s found extensive damage to some of her vegetables.

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“I almost don’t want to put out cucumbers or squash,” Haydon said. “They do such a number.”

“This is a very significant pest that’s going to have some real ramifications if we don’t get it under control,” Butler said.

And in labs throughout the Mid-Atlantic, researchers have been looking for ways to kill the Asian stink bug. A number of pesticides will work, but the insects attack many different types of plants.

“It’s very difficult to concentrate on enough of these guys that we can smack them down and control their populations,” Raupp said.

Firm estimates of crop damage won’t be known until fall, when stink bugs start moving back in with us.

“I think we’re going to have another bumper crop invasion this autumn,” Raupp said.

Because the bugs that are out feeding now will soon be laying eggs for a new, larger generation.

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Researchers think the best weapon is a tiny wasp from Asia that destroys stink bug eggs. But it will take another two years of study to determine if it is safe to release here.