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Extreme Polyphagy

Querying the Gut Contents of Brown Marmorated Stink Bug

The brown marmorated stink bug, Halyomorpha halys, or BMSB, is a highly destructive pest of dozens of crops in the United States. It has proven difficult to control without employing environmentally and economically unsustainable management tactics, such as the heavy use of broad-spectrum insecticides, that are particularly disruptive to existing integrated pest management strategies. Understanding how BMSB utilizes wild host plants is a key step in developing sustainable management programs, yet BMSB’s high mobility and diverse diet make it difficult to fully examine its ecology on a landscape level.

close-up of a stink bug on a chokecherry
BMSB feeding on a chokecherry

The research funded by this grant seeks to adapt gut content analysis as a tool for predicting the potential host plant range of BMSB in the arid Pacific Northwest in advance of its arrival and potential establishment as an agricultural pest of the region’s tree fruit industry. Our findings will help assess the risk of BMSB becoming established on a site-by-site basis based on plant species present and provide growers, pest management scouts and consultants, and other researchers with guidance as to which plant species should be monitored. Additionally, the methods developed in this research have great potential for elucidating the host plant range of BMSB in other regions and for application to other invasive insects across the United States.

Jim Hepler

Project Director,
PhD Student

Department of Entomology
Washington State University
Tree Fruit Research & Extension Center
1100 N Western Ave
Wenatchee, WA 98801

email: james.hepler@wsu.edu

New Publication

Determining the host range of an invasive insect in a new environment is a key step in the development of management strategies. As the brown marmorated stink bug, Halyomorpha halys Stål, expands into agricultural regions of North America, efforts to elucidate its dietary habits on a landscape scale rely on intensive sampling of potential host plants. Although this approach yields useful information, results can be biased toward common and easily sampled plant species; important hosts can be missed if sampling them is impractical or limited in scope. Here we lay the groundwork for the application of gut content analysis to the feeding ecology of H. halys by investigating the persistence of host plant DNA in the digestive tracts of insects with known feeding histories.

screenshot of environmental entomology web site with the article title

Hepler, J., R. Cooper, and E. Beers.  2021. Host Plant Signal Persistence in the Gut of the Brown Marmorated Stink Bug (Hemiptera: Pentatomidae). Environmental Entomology, 50(1): 202-207. https://doi.org/10.1093/ee/nvaa152

BMSB Nymph Feeding on a Tomato

This is a 4th instar brown marmorated stink bug nymph feeding on a grape tomato. The robust beak is unfolded and inserted into the tomato, then the delicate, thread-like stylet follow. After the stylets are inserted, the tip of the beak folds back along the surface of the fruit and the stylet are repeatedly plunged into the flesh to feed. The 2nd feeding bout commenced in a matter of seconds after the 1st one finished, and very close to the original insertion point. Both feeding bouts took about 21 minutes.

Brown Marmorated Stink Bug – Egg Hatch Time Lapse

This time-lapse sequence was taken over the course of 6 days from a freshly laid egg mass on a bean leaf. The egg mass was kept in a controlled temperature room at 30-75% RH and 25-27 ºC with a 18L:6D photoperiod.

This project was funded by a grant from the US Department of Agriculture National Institute of Food and Agriculture, Project No. WNP03194