Stink Bugs and Citrus

Some species of stink bugs are large insects—adults can reach almost 2 cm in length. Their body is almost as wide as it is long. They are good fliers. Stink bugs are found throughout North America.

There are many species of stink bugs in the United States. Some species are green and some are brown. They get their common name from the unpleasant smell they produce when they are threatened.

Scientists use the term “plant-feeders” to describe many stink bugs. This means that the bugs attack plants for food. Stink bugs attack the fruits, vegetables and ornamental plants that grow in the area where they live. Depending on the location, stink bugs will feed on peaches, apples, tomatoes, green peppers, soybeans, pecans and even cotton.

In the warm areas of the country, stink bugs can be serious pests of citrus. Many species of stink bugs have been found feeding on citrus, but the southern green stink bug, Nezara viridula (L), is the one that attacks citrus most often.

Stink bugs hatch in fields near the citrus groves. The bugs feed on thistles, cowpeas and other plants. As these plants dry up, the stink bugs migrate into the citrus groves where they attack the developing fruit.

Stink bugs use their mouths to pierce the skin of the fruit and then suck out the juice. After the skin has been punctured, diseases, fungi and even other insects can also attack the fruit.

The stink bug’s favorite citrus seems to be the tangerine, but it also attacks satsumas and oranges. Stink bugs have not been found feeding on grapefruit. Scientists suspect this may be due to the grapefruit’s thick rind.

Stink bugs do not usually attack citrus in large numbers, so the damage is normally not severe. However, if the stink bugs reach very large numbers, there can be serious damage to the citrus crop.

Citrus farmers have learned to manage stink bugs by managing the areas around the groves. The farmers remove the weeds and other plants where stink bugs develop. This reduces the number of stink bugs that can attack the citrus groves. In this way, the farmers can reduce the amount of crop damage the stink bugs can cause.