Researchers study unleashing wasp to crush stink bug invasion

CORVALLIS, Ore. - A team of researchers at Oregon State University is trying to make sure a species of stink bug doesn't overtake Oregon.

They say all signs are there that the pest is poised to make farmlands its next frontier. That could lead to an economic catastrophe.

"They're on their way to becoming a worldwide pest," said Nik Wiman, an OSU researcher.

Wiman, along with colleague Chris Hedstrom, spend their days shaking down the brown marmorated stink bug.

Wiman says they're showing up on farmland throughout Portland and "we've found that they moved up the Columbia Gorge, and we have large populations now in the Hood River area, which is a huge concern now for the tree-fruit growers."

He is studying how the bugs get around since they aren't native to the United States. It seems they get creative with their travels.

"We've had some people come to us who have pulled the brown marmorated stink bug out of their RVs in the spring," Wiman said.

Hedstrom is tackling the bug's termination. He's not looking to use chemicals; instead, he's using what might look like an unlikely remedy: a tiny wasp from China.

"The adult female lays a single egg inside of each stink bug egg, and then the wasp actually develops inside the egg, killing the stink bug," Hedstrom said. "And it emerges from the egg as an adult to go and do it again."

The wasps live in a laboratory across campus in Richardson Hall. They're under quarantine because researchers aren't sure what they'll do to the ecosystem.

"It looks like the wasp could potentially go after other stink bugs, but those are very limited in tests,' Hedstrom said.

He said the tests could take several years to do.

So far they say the worst places in the Portland area for stink bugs are Milwaukie and Oregon City. They've also had reports in Beaverton.

They're harmless in the house, but they can ruin vegetation.