There are four predatory stink bugs found in the U.S., mostly in southern states.
Anchor stink bugs
Anchor stink bugs (Stiretrus anchorago) are from Central and North America. They occur in several different color variations, ranging from black, white, and tan, to orange or red and black, to green and yellow.
Florida predatory stink bugs
Found predominantly in the southeastern U.S., Florida predatory stink bugs (Euthyrhynchus floridanus) hunt grasshoppers and other garden pests. They go after these larger insects by hunting in packs of up to twelve individuals. These bugs are just under ¾” long and bluish-black or purplish-brown with red rear ends with black markings, though they also come in a variety of colors. They have sturdier snouts than their sap-sucking cousins.
Giant strong-nosed stink bugs
The giant strong-nosed stink bug (Alcaeorrhynchus grandis) is found in South and Central America as well as in southern U.S. states. These bugs can be nearly 1” long and they have two distinct points on their backs. They tend to be variegated brown with dark bands on their legs and dark spots on their bellies. Some individuals are red with black leg bands. Unlike the smaller egg clusters of other stink bugs, the giants lay eggs in masses of 100-200 eggs. Nymphs have a bluish-black thorax and red abdomens with dark stripes.
Spined soldier bugs
Spined soldier bugs (Podisus maculiventris) are found throughout North America. They prefer feeding on the larvae of cabbage loopers, Colorado potato beetles, diamondback moth caterpillars, European corn borers, flea beetles, gypsy moths, imported cabbageworm larvae, Mexican bean beetles, and velveteen caterpillars, so count yourself lucky if you have these hunters in your landscape. You can even buy spined soldier bugs eggs to add to your IPM program.
As you search your garden for stink bugs, with a bucket of soapy water in hand, keep in mind that not all of them are bad. Sorting between beneficial and pest stink bugs is made a little easier because many predators tend to be more brightly colored and patterned.
Which types of stink bugs have you seen?
Red-shouldered stink bugs may invade your home as well as your garden.
Red-shouldered stink bugs (Thyanta custator) use their piercing mouthparts to suck the juices from your almonds, apples, beans, corn, peaches, pears, pistachios, tomatoes, and wheat. Their feeding can cause cat-facing and corky fruit, as well as provide points of entry for other pests and diseases. And, of course, they poop on those crops, too.
Red-shouldered stink bug identification
Adult red-shouldered stink bugs are primarily green but can be brown, with a pinkish edge along the scutellum (just behind the head). That pink edge can be very dark and noticeable, barely present, or missing entirely. They have long antennae (for a stink bug) and, if you flip them over, you will see some of them have black spots on the abdomen.
Nymphs are brownish, with tribal-like designs on their backs. Adults and nymphs average 1/3” in length. Eggs are grey, round to barrel-shaped, and flat on top.
Red-shouldered stink bug lifecycle
Tiny eggs are generally laid in clusters on plant stems and the underside of leaves. When those eggs hatch, nymphs start feeding on developing seeds and young leaves, buds, and flowers. As they mature, their diet expands to include all those crops mentioned earlier. Then, as temperatures begin to drop, they start looking for a place to overwinter. That winter wonderland may be in mulch, plant debris, or your living room.
Similar to ladybugs, red-shouldered stink bugs are notorious for invading homes in autumn. And don’t try vacuuming them up or your vacuum will stink. Instead, invert a plastic bag over your hand, pick those little suckers up, and drop them into a container of soapy water. The same method works outside in the garden, as well.
Stink bugs can smell pretty bad. Even my hens turn up their beaks when one crawls by, so it’s up to you!
When I say ‘stink bug’, you probably think of a green or brown shield-shaped bug, and you’d be right.
But Say stink bugs (Chlorochroa sayi) can be such a dark green that they look nearly black with orange edging in winter. Then they switch to bluish-green with white edging in summer.
This pest is native to western North America, but its range is expanding.
Say stink bug identification and lifecycle
These are large bugs, averaging ¾” in length. While in their green phase, adult Say stink bugs also have three light spots near where their shoulders would be, if they had shoulders. You may also see a white or pink spot just above where the wings emerge on nearly mature nymphs.
Females lay clusters of 30 or so white, barrel-shaped eggs on plant material. Those eggs hatch into nymphs. At first, those nymphs stay clustered together for a few days before dispersing in search of tender flowers and germinating seeds. They also eat young leaves. Nymphs are smaller and softer than adults and do not have wings. They go through several developmental stages, or instars, before reaching adulthood. There can be up to three generations each year, depending on the length of the growing season.
Say stink bug damage
Despite their fascinating wardrobe changes, Say stink bugs are much like other stink bugs. They emerge from leaf litter and ground cover in early spring, feeding on mallow, mustards, Russian thistle, and other favored weeds until your garden starts happening. They then move in, feeding on all those seeds you just planted. They especially like members of the grass family, which means alfalfa, barley, corn, millet, oats, rye, and wheat are all at risk, as well as your lawn. Then they go after your beets and tomatoes. Especially tomatoes.
Using piercing mouthparts to suck the juices from your plants, Say stink bugs may also introduce yeasts that cause fruits to rot.
Say stink bug management
Removing weeds is one way to make your garden less inviting to Say stink bugs. Avoiding the use of broad-spectrum pesticides will encourage beneficial parasitic wasps and tachinid flies. And, as much as I dislike pill bugs, they do eat stink bugs eggs. At the end of autumn, remove over-wintering sites by composting leaf litter and other dead plant material, rather than leaving them in place.
Have you seen Say stink bugs in your garden? Let us know in the comments!
Green stink bugs are probably the easiest to spot in mulch and wood piles and one of the hardest to see among your plants.
Common green stink bugs (Acrosternum hilare and Chinavia hilaris), also known as green soldier bugs, are bright green with red, orange, or yellow edges. One oddball is bright orange! Adults are ½ to ¾ inches long. Nymphs have bright dark bodies with orange edges near the front and yellow on the back.
Barrel-shaped eggs are laid on the underside of leaves in double rows of twelve or more eggs. Eggs are also commonly found on the stems of salvia.
A smelly subject
Stink bugs get their name because they can smell bad. Both adults and larvae have large stink glands. When they are disturbed, they spew those smelly chemicals to deter potential predators. [Generally speaking, even my hens avoid them, which is a shame when you consider all the damage they can do.]
Green stink bug damage
Green stink bugs are found throughout North America. Using their piercing mouthparts, they damage a wide variety of garden and tree crops. The juicy fruits of apple, cherry, orange, and peach trees are common targets, leaving behind a trail of corky fruits prone to fungal diseases and other problems. As green stink bugs mature, they shift their focus to the seeds, stems, and leaves of beans, corn, eggplant, peas, soybeans, and tomatoes.
Green stink bug lookalikes
Green stink bugs are differentiated from southern stink bugs (Nezara viridula) by their black outermost antennal segments. There is one other green stink bug, Chinavia pensylvanica (no common name), found rarely in Maryland. That species has a more arched back (if you’re into that sort of thing).
Green stink bug control
Tachinid flies and parasitic wasps will lay their eggs in green stink bug eggs to provide a handy meal for their young, but there are often not enough of them to control a bad stink bug problem. Pheromone traps can be used, as well, but those traps attract pests which I find counterproductive. Those traps are used more effectively as monitoring tools.
As with other stink bugs, the best control methods are being alert and handpicking. If you drop stinkbugs into a container of soapy water, the smell isn’t a problem.
We've already discussed invasive brown marmorated stink bugs and native Uhler's and rough stink bugs, but there are more than 4700 species of these shield-shaped pests worldwide and over 200 species in North America.
Consperse stink bugs (Euschistus conspersus) are one of those.
Stink bug damage
Nearly all stink bugs are sap-sucking pests. I say ‘nearly’ because stink bugs are omnivores and there are even some predatory stink bugs. We’ll get to them another day. Stink bugs suck the life out of buds, fruits, leaves, and stems. Damage caused early in the growing season can lead to cat-facing later on. If you find corky areas underneath the skin of fruits, it was probably stink bug feeding. Being omnivores, stink bugs also eat pesky beetle and caterpillar larvae, so they aren’t all bad. I still don’t want them in my garden.
Consperse stink bugs, in particular, love apples and pears over everything else. They are also fond of almonds, blackberries, mustards, and many vegetables, including beans and tomatoes. Damage is worst during dry summers.
Consperse stink bug identification
Adult consperse stink bugs are ½” long and have greenish-grey to pale brown shield-shaped bodies, yellow underbellies, yellow to orange legs, and red antennae with darkened tips. You may also see alternating dark and light bands around the edge, or margin, of the upper shield.
Nymphs can range from white to black with reddish markings. As they mature, they turn brown with black markings. White, barrel-shaped eggs are laid in clusters on leaves and twigs, and turn pink before hatching.
Consperse stink bug lifecycle
Like other native stink bugs, consperse overwinter in groundcover, emerging as soon as there are tender young weeds and other host plants to eat. Eggs can hatch in less than a week and nymphs can reach adulthood in a little over two months. Female consperse stink bugs lay an average of 225 eggs, but one researcher saw those numbers go as high as 640! This is why it’s so important to eliminate them as soon as you see them.
Consperse stink bug management
Consperse stink bugs eggs are often eaten by ants, earwigs, damsel bugs, and adult stink bugs. Except for predatory damsel bugs, most of us don’t want the rest of those critters in our gardens any more than necessary. There are commercially available pheromone lures that work to limit stink bug populations. Combined with sticky cards, these lures can be very effective. Keep in mind, however, that pheromone lures attract pests.
Your best control measure is to be on the lookout and stomp any you see. Yes, they do stink when threatened or squashed, but it’s a small price to pay to protect your crops.
Are damaged areas on tomatoes due to dehydration, deficiency, or disease? Is it blossom end rot, sunscald, or buckeye rot? And what can you do about it?
Let’s look at all three in more detail so you will know what to do if you see damaged areas on your tomatoes or peppers.
If there isn’t enough water available to move the calcium to where it is needed, cell walls surrounding the blossom end of the fruit will collapse, creating a uniformly dark brown or black area ONLY on the lower sidewall or blossom end of the fruit. If you see blossom end rot, irrigate more heavily and more often.
If the damaged area is lighter in color and higher up the side of your fruit, it may be sunscald.
Buckeye rot symptoms
Buckeye rot is a disease caused by three different types of Phytophthora: P. capsici, P. drechsleri, and P. nicotiana var. parasitica. Phytophthoras are water molds (oomycetes) responsible for several plant diseases. This disease is common in the southeast and south-central regions of the United States but has been found elsewhere. It occurs most often after extended periods of warm, wet weather with temperatures ranging from 75°F to 86°F. Buckeye rot can infect tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant, as well as pineapples, potatoes, and tobacco.
At first, all you may see are smooth, grayish-green water-soaked spots. Damping-off and stem cankers may also appear. As the disease progresses, those lesions turn into the classic bull’s eye pattern of large, concentric rings, alternating between light and dark brown. The edges of these lesions will be smooth but not clearly marked. Eventually, white fungal growth can be seen on the lesions.
Other diseases that may exhibit similar symptoms include anthracnose, cucumber mosaic virus (CMV), and late blight. In each case, some differences can help you diagnose the problem:
Buckeye rot management
Starting with healthy, disease-free seeds and plants is the first step toward preventing nearly all plant diseases. Since buckeye rot spores can travel on seeds, transplants, clothing, and garden tools, it’s a good idea to keep things clean. Spores can also be splashed onto healthy plants by rain and overhead watering, so use soaker hoses or water at ground level and allow the soil surface to dry out between waterings. Mulching around plants can reduce the splash effect, as well as reduce weeds and evaporation.
You can reduce the chance of many fungal diseases by providing good drainage and reducing soil compaction. Since buckeye rot spores are found in soil, the disease is most likely to affect fruits closer to the ground. If you keep fruit up high with stock panels, tomato cages, or trellising, you can reduce the likelihood of buckeye rot occurring. Three-year crop rotations are also believed to help prevent buckeye rot.
Now you know.
Touted as a miracle soil amendment, what’s true about rock dust and what’s not?
Also known as mineral powder, rock flour, rock powder, rockdust, or stone powder, and soil remineralizer, rock dust is what’s leftover from mining and quarry work. This finely pulverized material claims to contain important plant nutrients, “enhance the ability of beneficial microbes to flourish”, improve plant structure, increases water retention and resistance to pests and disease, and create “intense flavor profiles for fruits and vegetables”.
Wow. That sounds pretty important and impressive, doesn’t it? While it’s certainly true that plants need nutrients to grow and thrive, let’s see what research says about those claims. We can start by learning what, exactly, is in that bag of rock dust.
What is rock dust?
The contents of your rock rust shipment will depend entirely on where it was mined. It may contain a lot of calcium. Or none. The same is true for other minerals. That being said, on average, rock dust contains significant amounts of aluminum, silicon, and sometimes iron. It may also contain copper, magnesium, manganese, potassium, sulfur, and zinc. But does your soil need these elements? Without a lab-based soil test, you really can’t be sure.
Your rock dust may also contain toxic levels of aluminum, arsenic, cadmium, chromium, copper, lead, nickel, and sodium. Believe me when I tell you that dealing with toxic levels of nutrients is a lot harder and takes a lot longer than adding missing nutrients. I’m speaking from experience. If you do nothing else for your garden this spring, get your soil tested before you add anything.
Big batch or specific sediments?
If your soil is low on a certain nutrient, rather than relying on luck, you can order specific types of rock dust. If you know your soil is low in something, you can apply crushed versions of that nutrient in the form of rock dust. Of course, it costs more that way. The nice thing is, it is an organic method of fertilizing your plants.
Making rock dust work for you
If you decide to apply rock dust, combining it with nutrient-rich organic matter, such as aged compost or manure, creates a slightly acidic environment more likely to break down the dust into bits small enough to be carried by irrigation water into your plants.
What rock dust is not
Because it does not contain significant levels of nitrogen, phosphorus, or potassium, rock dust is not a fertilizer.
Bottom line, in my opinion, rock dust is best left to commercial growers who regularly deplete their soils through heavy use and often have a fleet of chemists, soil experts, and lab technicians on hand to determine what’s needed and what’s in each particular load of rock dust.
You can grow a surprising amount of food in your own yard. Ask me how!
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