Oh no, there’s so much stink bug damage that these butterbeans are hardly worth picking and shelling. I knew we should have sprayed again last week! Many southern gardeners will agree that stink bugs are the worst insect pests in the vegetable garden, and they have several good reasons for thinking this. There are many different species of stink bugs: green stink bugs, southern green stink bugs, brown stink bugs, red-shouldered stink bugs, and more, and regardless of species, they cause damage both as immatures and as adults. Stink bugs have several generations per year and their numbers just keep on building up through the growing season. Finally, stink bugs damage so many different vegetable crops: butterbeans, green beans, peas, okra, corn, tomatoes, even peppers.
Stink bug damage varies depending on the crop, and plant part, being damaged. This is because they use their piercing-sucking mouthparts to inject saliva into the plant to pre-digest and liquefy the area. Then they suck this predigested liquid into their stomachs. Damage depends on when and where on the plant tissue is killed by those salivary enzymes. Bean and pea seed exhibit the types of sunken lesions seen in this photo (you can also see where the stylets pierced the hull). Tomatoes exhibit irregular yellow or white spots just beneath the skin, and corn ears and okra pods often grow in a curved or “cow horn” shape after being damaged by stink bugs.
Control: In late summer and fall, large numbers of stink bugs are constantly migrating from maturing row crops such as corn and soybeans into home vegetable gardens. If you want to grow susceptible crops like peas or tomatoes in August and September, you’re going to have to fight the stink bugs for them. Fortunately, effective treatments are available, although repeated sprays may be required to maintain control. Pyrethroid insecticides such as permethrin (Hi-Yield Garden, Pet & Livestock Insect Control and Bonide Eight Insect Control Concentrate are two examples) and bifenthrin (Ortho Bug B Gon Insect Killer for Lawns and Gardens is a commonly available brand) are especially effective against stink bugs. Pre-harvest intervals vary depending on the product you use and the crop you spray, so check labels carefully before treating. Other than hand-picking and foot-stomping, there are no good organic treatments for stink bugs. See Extension Publication 2347, Insect Pests of the Home Vegetable Garden for more information.
Blake Layton, Extension Entomology Specialist, Mississippi State University Extension Service. The information given here is for educational purposes only. Always read and follow current label directions. Specific commercial products are mentioned as examples only and reference to specific products or trade names is made with the understanding that no discrimination is intended to other products that may also be suitable and appropriately labeled.