Category Archives: Entomology

Brown marmorated stink bugs – 5 resources to help you answer questions

With the coming of autumn, it is brown marmorated stink bug season once again. We’ve put together the information you’ll need to handle any calls that might come your way. A year ago, here in the Michigan State University (MSU) Extension Director’s Office, our phones were ringing off the hook with people calling to report sightings and to ask questions. This year, we’ll be ready. Use the following resources and websites to learn about the invasive pest yourself as well as give to any interested callers:

  1. The Midwest Invasive Species Information Network (MISIN) collects information on sightings of brown marmorated stink bugs but only in certain areas. Because the stink bug is well-established across the southern half of the Lower Peninsula, the network is no longer collecting information on sightings in this region. However, the northern half of the Lower Peninsula and the Upper Peninsula are regions that should report. For a comprehensive map of the current BMSB establishment in Michigan and the most up-to-date information, check out “Why and How to Report Sightings of Brown Marmorated Stink Bugs in Your Home or Business” by Julianna Wilson, MSU faculty member in the Department of Entomology.
  2. To report sightings in the requested areas, people will need to go to the MISIN website or mobile app, register as a user (it’s free) and follow the instructions for submitting a report.
  3. The Brown Marmorated Stink Bug (BMSB): Information for Michigan Residents on a New Home Invader” by Paul Botch, MSU Department of Entomology, and Diane Brown, MSU Extension, goes in depth and covers background information, identification and eradication. This is a great resource to familiarize yourself with in order to answer questions. It’s also a comprehensive resource to send to anyone asking for information.
  4. MSU Diagnostic Services faculty member Howard Russell created “Managing Brown Marmorated Stink Bugs in Homes” about preventing and managing the brown marmorated stink bug in homes and in farms.
  5. If you have any calls from folks who’d like to have an insect identified, Howard’s “Tips on Submitting Insects for Identification” is an excellent resource on mailing a specimen or sending in digital photos.

Another common question we receive is if the insects are harmful to people or pets. Thankfully, they are not. If the bugs are harmless, why is this such a big deal? The brown marmorated stink bug is an invasive species that can cause damage to Michigan plants and crops, and the further we can track its spread, the more effective we can be in prevention and management.

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Filed under Entomology, Invasive species, Resources

MSU celebrates National Pollinator Week

Michigan State University (MSU) hosted two events on June 19, Bee Palooza and Science on Tap: Beezzz & Brewzzz to celebrate National Pollinator Week.

Bee Palooza, a free, fun and educational event centered on understanding pollinators, is designed for people of all ages. MSU Horticulture Gardens hosted displays that focused on honeybee colonies, bumble bees, the wild bees of Michigan, plants to support pollinators and the importance of bees and other pollinators to the food supply. Hands-on workshops engaged visitors on how to create a native bee hotel and how to identify pollinators in their gardens.

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Beezzz & Brewzzz, an adults-only event, took place at the Beer Grotto in Lansing. Participants heard from MSU experts Dr. Jason Gibbs, Dr. Meghan Milbrath and Dr. Rufus Isaacs about native bees, the work Michigan is doing to protect our pollinators and the role of bees in your favorite drinks. Following the presentations, entomology graduate students answered questions from the audience on topics ranging from the types of flowers to plant for bees and general bee biology to beekeeping regulations in Lansing. There were also special bee-related drinks on tap for the night. Over 100 people attended throughout the night and many received raffle giveaways including photo prints of wild bees taken by Jason Gibbs, pocket guides, local honey, native bee hotels, T-shirts and a Beer Grotto gift certificate.

Are you interested in knowing more about pollinators in Michigan or have you gotten calls with questions about them? Dr. David Smitley worked with a team of entomologists to put together “Protecting and Enhancing Pollinators in Urban Landscapes for the U.S. North Central Region,” a free 30-page PDF resource they hope will answer nearly every question that gardeners, landscapers and tree care professionals may have about protecting pollinators.

Michigan is a leader in honey production and in many pollination-dependent fruit and vegetable crops. With worldwide concerns about pollinator declines, we’re seeking to raise awareness about their importance and spread the word about what individuals can do to help. MSU Extension provides the latest information on pollinators and pollination including fact sheets from the Smart Gardening Program, webinars, educational seminars, email newsletters and other online resources.

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Filed under Entomology, Events, Gardening, Horticulture

MSUE educators key in identifying invasive pest

Recently, Michigan received the bad news that another invasive pest has arrived in our state – the brown marmorated stink bug (BMSB). The unwelcome guest feeds on fruits, vegetables, corn, soybeans and much more. It is difficult to control with insecticides and is a smelly nuisance that clusters on and in homes when the weather turns cold.

 Michigan State University Extension staff members as well as employees of the Michigan Department of Agriculture, United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) and other agencies are vigilant about identifying and mitigating the effects of any new pests that enter our borders.

 An MSU student collected the first specimen in Berrien County for a class project. It was his instructor in the course, MSUE educator Duke Elsner, who identified the bug as one of concern. Dr. Elsner submitted it to the USDA for further verification. A resident in Eaton County brought the second specimen to his local Extension office to MSUE educator George Silva, who sent it to MSU Diagnostic Services. There, entomologist Howard Russell identified it as a brown marmorated stink bug and forwarded it to APHIS for confirmation.

 MSU entomology specialists are gathering information and writing research proposals to address the issues this new pest will create.

 If you are curious about this pest, learn more from this fact sheet developed by entomologist Chris DiFonzo along with Howard Russell.

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Filed under Entomology

Response team discovers fruit pest, takes action

Sometimes the discovery of something very small has a very big impact. That’s what happened when a tiny vinegar fly called the Spotted Wing Drosophila or SWD was first detected this September in traps put out this year by Michigan State University entomologists. Originally from Asia, the insect established a base in the western United States and Canada. The MSU discovery marks the first time that the insect has been found in the Midwest. This miniature pest loves tasty, soft treats damaging most berry crops, grapes, cherries and other tree fruits.

 A Michigan SWD response team chaired by Rufus Isaacs, MSU entomologist, developed a pre-emptive Early Detection-Rapid Response (ED-RR) Plan, part of an integrated pest management (IPM) strategy for SWD. Entomologists and horticulturists from the MSU departments of Entomology and Horticulture, MSU Extension field staff members, Michigan Department of Agriculture staff members and fruit commodity representatives make up the team. I’d like to congratulate this group. Team members were on top of the issue, first discovering the pesky critter, then taking action. The team is doing further monitoring and is getting the word out to fruit growers to encourage them to plan for early detection through trapping, monitoring and taking crop-specific control measures.

 Agriculture and Natural Resources Communications staff members helped in spreading the word with a news release and fact sheet. Rufus Isaacs and Noel Hahn, from the Department of Entomology, and Bob Tritten and Carlos Garcia, MSU Extension, wrote the fact sheet, MSU Extension Bulletin E-3140. Even though he is on assignment in Chile, Dr. Isaacs is still on the job keeping track of SWD and the media coverage of it.

 Our staff members are actively researching and monitoring the bug to minimize its impact on fruit growers. The Spotted Wind Drosophila website gives up-to-date information, and our MSU Extension educators are in contact with fruit growers, giving out information and advice.

Project GREEEN and the Michigan Department of Agriculture provide funding for the SWD response team.

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Filed under Entomology

Watch out for mosquitos and bed bugs

Several alerts have come out in the past few days worth noting. One relates to a diagnosis of Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) in two and possibly three horses in southwestern Michigan (Calhoun, Barry and Cass counties) and the other is a general alert to the increasing spread of bed bugs. EEE is a bird virus carried by mosquitos to other animals. Horses are particularly vulnerable to its effects, but humans can be affected as well. For horses AND humans, the best approach is prevention: a simple vaccine is available to protect horses. For humans, the best approach is to reduce the likelihood of encountering a mosquito – eliminate habitats for mosquito larvae (small pockets of stagnant water), keep your windows and doors covered with screens, use clothing and repellant when outdoors in mosquito country. You can find more information on EEE at the Michigan Department of Agriculture website.

 Bed bugs are showing up with greater frequency in commercial lodging facilities as a consequence of “hitchhiking” in luggage and clothing of travelers from parts of the world where they are more prevalent. Again, prevention is the key, and you’ll find valuable guidance at the Michigan Department of Community Health web site. There’s a great resource – the Michigan Manual for the Prevention and Control of Bed Bugs available from the web site. If you like to get creeped out by photos of insects, you’ll definitely want to check out the cover photo of the manual. And I love the title of the first chapter, “Getting to Know the Bed Bug.” Makes you want to curl up in bed and read that one before falling asleep!

 Thanks to Michael Kauffman, Michigan State University Extension specialist in entomology, for being a part of the Michigan Bed Bug Working Group and for keeping us all informed of these serious issues. I know I won’t be chuckling if I wake up with red bite marks on my body some morning.

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Filed under Entomology