Researchers say they're concerned that an aggressive agricultural pest may pose a threat to some of Oregon's most productive agricultural lands.
Oregon State University researchers say the brown marmorated stink bug has turned up in the orchards of Hood River and the Rogue River Valley.
This insect's capacity to destroy crops, coupled with a relatively indiscriminate palate has lead at least one researcher to call it "the bug from hell." In reality, the brown marmorated stink bug comes from China. It's been in the U.S. since the mid-nineties, first turning up first in the eastern U.S. before working its way west.
Peter Shearer is professor of entomology with Oregon State University.
Shearer says so far the bug hasn't caused significant damage in this state, but he's worried that in time, Oregon could see a population explosion similar to what occurred back east in 2010.
Shearer says that year the pest caused over $40 million worth of damage to apple growers in the mid-Atlantic states and destroyed over half of the Pennsylvania peach crop.
"It causes a lot of problems to growers because it's so hard to kill and it can be around in such high numbers," says Shearer.
And that's troubling news for Oregon's diverse, multi-billion dollar agricultural industry.
"There are good stink bugs and bad stink bugs and this is probably the worst of the worst cause it goes after so many different kinds of plants," he says.
While the stink bug has no natural predators in this county, researchers have found a type of parasitic wasp that seems keep the stink bug under control back in China. Shearer says researchers are studying whether that wasp could be safely be introduced here, but he those findings could be some years out.