A year of weird weather has led to a bug boom that's causing a nuisance for some farmers in the region. One particular pest: the green stink bug.
"This was the first place that we saw the damage. They were in the hundreds," says Terry Marron with the Windstone Farm.
When Marron first found the green stink bugs on her Williston farm, she couldn't believe it.
"They just covered all of the plants. And then we did actually see one of the sunflowers just wilt," she says.
With the Japanese beetle already chewing holes in their plants, this new pest added insult to injury.
"I don't even remember seeing these. I've never seen them in these numbers," Marron says.
These bugs aren't new to the area -- but their numbers are. What's unique about them, experts say, is that they cause damage at every stage of their growth.
"They have a piercing, sucking mouthpart, so they kind-of put that mouthpart into a fruit like a tomato, or a blueberry or raspberry or sunflower, it causes a lot of damage," says Ann Hazelrigg, the Plant Diagnostic Clinic Coordinator with the UVM Extension program.
The University of Vermont's Master Gardener helpline started getting reports of the green stink bugs from gardeners about a month ago. They say a year of weird weather may be the culprit.
"I think we're seeing a lot this year maybe because of the mild winter," Hazelrigg says. "But it seems like a lot of gardeners and growers are complaining about these all of a sudden.
Most of the calls the university has received have been from at-home farmers who saw the bug boom and were concerned about their crops. But they say all size farms have been affected and are taking action.
Marron's farm is organic, and the certified sprays she tried didn't seem to do much to deter the bugs. Hand-picking them off the plants, she says, has worked the best. Because they can't fly until they are fully-grown, she uses a milk carton filled with water to drop the bugs in, where they drown.
Though Marron is concerned about her flowers -- it's the basil she's really worried about. She uses that to make pesto, which she sells at farmers markets.
"I just do a run through three times a day just picking the bugs off by hand and using that milk jug, just walking back and forth through the rows and getting them," she says. "And that seems to keep the population in check."
Experts say a harsher winter this year could mean less of a nuisance for next summer's crop.
If you have questions about the bug or your garden, contact UVM's Master Gardener Help Line at:
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