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Evil stinkbug – what kind?
August 16, 2011
Dear Bug People,
Some background: I am a new, very naive gardener, growing tomatoes and bell peppers for the first time. Like my entire yard, my herbs and vegetables haven’t been treated with any pesticides or herbicides – not only do I have sympathy for the organic lifestyle, but I’m extremely lazy 😀
I got so excited about my developing crop, only to be crestfallen when, just before ripeness, my peppers and especially my tomatoes started showing all these little round sores and going bad. I knew they weren’t bird pecks; those would go all the way through the skin. I had no idea what was going on, and chalked it up to some kind of disease I knew nothing about.
I’m generally very tolerant of insects – in fact, I love them, even if I’m sometimes at a loss as to what they are – though I do squish anything I definitely recognize is a pest, like tomato hornworms, of which I’ve had only a few. I know some shield bugs prey on pests, and so when I’d see these yellow- or chartreuse-bellied guys around – their population slowly growing larger – I let them be, thinking they were on my side.
Boy, was I wrong!
A little while ago, while I was watering my tomatoes, I noticed two of them clustered on one of the fruits, unmistakably sucking the juices out. I saw another sucking out of one of those mysterious sores on another fruit. Needless to say, I went on a soapy water rampage, feeling very sorry for myself, my plants, and even those evil bugs. Though I like their colorful bellies, I like fresh veggies more.
Here are some pictures – one of the insect, one for your carnage page in a cup of soapy water, and one of the damage it can inflict on a yellow bell pepper, so that other visitors can recognize the cause of this type of damage. I’ve looked through yours and other sites; so far I’ve figured out that they’re probably stinkbugs (which I somehow didn’t know sucked plant juices!), but I haven’t found out what kind of stinkbug has a bright yellow or yellow-green underside. I’d love to know!
Dear R. Thompson,
Thank you for your very thorough letter, however, you left our one critical item. You did not provide us with a location. You want us to identify your Stink Bug, we suppose to the species level, yet you did not supply us with critical information as to where on the planet this problem is occurring. Second, though you provided us with several images of the Stink Bug, the best view for a species identification is a dorsal view that clearly shows the shape and markings. We do NOT consider dispatching creatures that are feeding on your food to be unnecessary carnage, though we do not recommend shooting at birds and small mammals that visit your vegetable patch. We waged war with the African Painted Bug, Bagrada hilaris, when it appeared on the collard greens in our garden two years ago, and we are proud to say that this year we have none. Hemipterans, including Stink Bugs, are among the biggest threats to a bounteous home harvest and we support removing the offenders from your vegetable patch. Hemipterans have mouths designed to pierce and suck, and they often inject saliva with enzymes that causes blotching and other damage to fruits and vegetables, rendering portions of them inedible. You can always cut away the blighted areas and eat the remainder of the pepper or tomato. For your own benefit, you should learn to recognize local species of Predatory Stink Bugs in the subfamily Asopinae so that you do not mistake them for their plant feeding relatives. BugGuide has some excellent photos of the Predatory Stink Bugs that live in North America, though you may be in Australia or Peru for all we know.
Thank you for your response! I’m located in Charlotte, North Carolina. Sorry, I guess it just slipped my mind!
As to the dorsal view, I guess I figured the bright belly color alone would be di-stink-tive enough to identify it 😉 They didn’t seem to have any really obvious markings on the back – just a solid-seeming brown or brownish-grey, maybe with a little subtle mottling – but then again, I probably don’t know what to look for.
I suppose I must’ve done a really good job with that soapy water, though, because I actually haven’t found any more on my plants since then! If they do make a comeback, though, I’ll be sure to send you a photo that meets your criteria.
Until then, if this limited information helps, let me know!
P.S. – I did cut away the blighted areas, and it was a delicious pepper 🙂
Hi again R. Thompson,
Thanks for the followup report. You created an immediate urge to create a garden blog tag for our site. Now we will need to hunt out goodies from the archives, but your letter was the catalyst. Quite frankly, isn’t the fact that it is a plant eating Stink Bug that might be introducing a virus to your peppers and causing them to blight sufficient? Biting True Bugs and other Hemipterans are among the leading disease vectors in plants. So many Stink Bugs look alike to us. We haven’t tried a “yellow bellied stink bug” search yet, but that seems like it would be a good common name.
Ed. Note: August 19, 2011
Upon doing a web search of “yellow bellied stink bug” we were led to the genus Euschistus on BugGuide and this image of Euschistus tristigmus looks pretty close to your specimen.