Scientists pick up the genetic scent of stinkbug invaders

stinkbug, invasive species, new jersey environment

DANIEL ACKERMAN / SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN – If a farmer can grow it, a brown marmorated stinkbug can destroy it. This invasive scourge has ravaged apples, peaches, tomatoes and more than 100 other crops across North America. Once farmers notice an infestation, they are nearly powerless to halt it. But there is hope: Borrowing techniques from aquatic science, researchers have discovered a genetic beacon that could raise the alarm in the earliest stages of an invasion—when there is still time to act.

The scientists found traces of brown marmorated stink bug DNA in the water farmers used to rinse their produce, they report in a study, published in June in Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment. This sampling of “environmental DNA” revealed the bugs’ cryptic presence on farms well before traditional insect trapping techniques could do so …

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