Stench de­scends on On­tario

Stinkbugs are com­ing for our gar­dens, crops and homes

Metro Canada (Toronto) - - News - Genna Buck

Jo­hanna Sch­neller, au­thor of Metro’s What I’m Watch­ing col­umn, has been watch­ing a hor­ror show play out in her own home.

The su­per vil­lains? They’re stinkers. More pre­cisely, they’re brown mar­morated stinkbugs, an in­va­sive species and a grow­ing men­ace across On­tario.

For the past few weeks, large, slow-mov­ing, fly­ing in­sects, have been show­ing up by twos and threes in Sch­neller’s third-floor home of­fice in Toronto’s An­nex neigh­bour­hood.

She didn’t think much of it. Un­til she squished one.

“They emit this re­ally dis­gust­ing smell, like rot­ten leaves. It’s pun­gent, it lingers in the air,” Sch­neller said. “It’s like na­ture in­vented this bug to taunt us.”

Well, na­ture never in­tended for these bugs to be here. They hitch­hiked here, likely from their na­tive China, Korea or Japan, and, find­ing them­selves in an en­vi­ron­ment with no nat­u­ral preda­tors, staged a takeover.

Mea­sur­ing a lit­tle over a cen­time­tre, pretty big for a bug, their bod­ies are brown­ish and shield­shaped, with dis­tinc­tive white tri­an­gles along the edges.

Their two su­per­pow­ers are their stink and their abil­ity to eat al­most any­thing, more than 200 kinds of plants, said Tara Gariepy, an en­to­mol­o­gist with Agri­cul­ture and Agri-food Canada who is re­search­ing ways to get the smelly pest un­der con­trol.

In fact, govern­ment agen­cies are mon­i­tor­ing the bugs in prepa­ra­tion for a bi­o­log­i­cal con­trol project. For the past five years, they’ve been study­ing whether it’s a good idea to fight back against stinkbugs by un­leash­ing tiny wasps, im­ported from Asia, that re­pro­duce by hi­jack­ing stinkbug eggs. Gariepy said they’re wait­ing for some project fund­ing to come in be­fore they move for­ward with the plan.

Asian stinkbugs are in an elite cat­e­gory of pests. They love urban trees and or­na­men­tal plants, mak­ing them a nui­sance in the city, but they’re also a threat to a huge va­ri­ety of agri­cul­tural prod­ucts.

Known by its ini­tials, BMSB, the in­sect first showed up in Hamil­ton, Ont., in 2010 and has been spread­ing ever since, Gariepy said.

“We’re see­ing an ex­pan­sion in (their) geo­graphic area. They (range) from Wind­sor to Ot­tawa, spo­rad­i­cally,” she said. “We’re start­ing to see more and more re­ports in Toronto.”

Un­like in the United States, where the in­ter­loper has dev­as­tated apple or­chards, stinkbugs haven’t done sig­nif­i­cant dam­age to crops in Canada, she added — but they’re clos­ing in on the Ni­a­gara region, where they could threaten fruit trees.

Stinkbugs love at­tics and drafty older homes with cracks they can get into, Gariepy said.

Sch­neller feared there might be a “hideous nest” some­where in her house, but that’s un­likely:

Stinkbugs lie low in­doors to stay warm for the win­ter, but don’t re­pro­duce there, Gariepy said.

In the spring, they start get­ting ac­tive again and look­ing for a way out. Then, if you have one, they’ll head straight to your gar­den and mow down al­most every­thing in sight.

Gariepy looked at a pic­ture of a spec­i­men from Sch­neller’s win­dowsill and con­firmed it: White tri­an­gles. Def­i­nitely BMSB, not a harm­less, lo­cal look-alike.

If you think you have them, too, you should con­tact the prov­ince at­, Gariepy said.


Stinkbugs have been spot­ted in older homes in Toronto’s An­nex neigh­bour­hood. Ex­perts say the bugs love at­tics and homes with cracks they can get into.

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