TRENTON – Those pesky stink bugs are causing severe damage to the state’s fruit and farming industry, damaging large supplies of peaches, apples, grapes, blueberries and cherries.
Scientists and farmers testified Thursday afternoon before the Assembly Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee.
They said the bugs suck into the fruits, liquefy and kill fruit tissue, making the fruits unmarketable.
One incident found some 58 percent of 600 boxes of peaches were damaged by stink bugs. At $12 a box, that amounts to about $4,000 worth of damage, a level of loss scientist Dean Polk described as “completely unsustainable.”
“Anyway you cut it, this is a very serious pest,” he said.
Polk, of Rutgers Cooperative Extension, said most insecticides used for ridding stink bugs have largely been ineffective.
“They were as effective as water,” he said.
Farmer Gary Mount, who grows 36 different fruits and vegetables on his Princeton-area farm, described the bugs as indiscriminate that will suck into just about any crop.
Rutgers entomologist George Hamilton said the stink bug came from Allentown, Pa., after it came to that eastern Pennsylvania town from Asia (believed to have originated in China) in the late 1990s.
Since then, stink bugs have been detected in more than 30 states, getting in cars and crates that travel across the country.
“It’s not a localized issue,” Hamilton said.
The population has just been growing and growing, especially in the last three years, with Hamilton describing it as “a devastating problem,” especially to farmers.
Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia and Virginia have seen similar problems, he said.
Assemblywoman Celeste Riley said the state needs to reach out to the federal Agriculture Department for more help.
“I don’t see this problem going away,” she said.
Other legislators agreed, calling on the federal government for more help on this invasive issue.