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Meet the little stinker sucking the life out of B.C. Interior farms and gardens

Conchuela stink bugs causing a real stink for fruit and vegetable growers

It’s been a prolific pest for gardeners and gardens this summer in parts of the B.C. Interior.

Known to frequent the Okanagan in large numbers, this year, concheula stink bugs have been found throughout the North Shuswap. They’ve been particularly problematic for people with fruit and/or vegetable gardens.

“In Kamloops, the garden club people are complaining about them there too. It’s just all over the Interior it seems,” said the Shuswap Garden Club’s Kathy Crosbie, whose own home garden became a feeding ground for the insects.

“It’s amazing, they’ll pick a certain tomato and you’ll find them all on there, or one bean… and they seem to almost suck the life out of the bean, and the tomato will turn almost yellow and you can see where they’ve been on there,” said Crosbie. Same with the bean, they’ll just sort of suck it I guess until it turns yellow or whatever. And then they’ll be on flowers… they seem to pick certain plants they like.”

Conchuela stink bugs grow to be about a half-inch long. The adults can be green, brown or dark brown and have an orange/yellow trim.

The insects are known to target vegetables, berries, grapes and other fruits, as well as ornamentals.

“I had lots of beans and I thought, they’re just on all of my beans so I pulled all my bean crop out because of them,” said Crosbie, who sought advice from B.C. Ministry of Agriculture entomologist Susanna Acheampong on how to deal with the bugs.

“She said just get a bucket of soapy water and flick them into it and they basically just drown,” said Crosbie. “Don’t spray anything. We don’t want to get into the spray and I don’t know if that would make any difference.”

Richard and Kresha Faber at Foxfire Farms near Gardom Lake has also been contending with the stink bugs this summer.

“I gave up on my raspberries which were covered with them and they sucked the life out of many of our beans and sweet peas,” said Richard. “Our diversity allows us to focus on those crops that are doing well and get over the inevitable losses in some other crops.

“We seem to have a different pest problem each season and we try not to use any drastic measures to deal with them which could upset the balance in our system.”

At Green Croft Gardens in Grindrod, the bugs are present but haven’t been as problematic.

“So far it’s been OK – we have quite a diverse mix of crops and they seem to be in our currents our most, the black currents,” said Green Croft’s Gabriele Westle. “We’ve picked our currents already and the leaves are all on – they’re just in there.

Westle said she’s received phone calls from people asking about the bugs and what to do about them. But she said the garden has been in operation for 30 years, and this is the first year the conchuela stink bugs appeared in such numbers.

Read more: Agriculture ministry looks for special stink bugs in Salmon Arm and region

Read more: Invasion of the stink bugs: Pest thrives in British Columbia’s warm October

While the bugs have also been a problem for gardens/gardeners in the North Shuswap, Celista Estate Winery’s Jake Ootes said they’ve yet to appear in great numbers at his vineyard. He suggested that may change when his grapes begin to ripen.

“The whites come in probably early to mid-September, and the reds come in early October to late October, somewhere in between there,” said Ootes. “That’s why I’m kind of wondering, OK, what’s going to happen?

“At the moment we’re OK but I’m very worried about it…”

Right now, the bugs are just one of several concerns for Ootes, whose winery isn’t far from the Lower East Adams Lake wildfire.

“We’re only 15-20 kilometres as the crow flies from the fire, so those two things are bothersome at the moment,” said Ootes.

If picking/flicking the insects from your garden, Acheampong advises wearing gloves as conchueala stink bugs produce “foul-smelling chemicals to prevent predators from eating them, and will produce the same chemicals when handled.”

Conchuela stink bugs are known to winter hidden under plant debris and other protective cover and emerge in the spring to feed on plants. They begin laying eggs mid-May and continue through the summer. Crosbie said was told there’s a likelihood the bugs will be back again in the Shuswap next summer.

“It’s just another cycle we’re going through, I guess,” said Crosbie.
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Lachlan Labere

About the Author: Lachlan Labere

Editor, Salmon Arm Observer
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