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Insect invaders: the brown marmorated stink bug versus Alien

Punaise marbrée
  • Punaise marbrée
  • Guêpe parasitoïde
Insect invaders: the brown marmorated stink bug versus Alien

Asian lady beetle, emerald ash borer, and lily leaf beetle – these colorful insects have made a home for themselves in Québec, but not for better, just for worse. Exotic invasive species are particularly problematic, because unlike pests native to the region of Québec, they set up house without their predators and other natural enemies, allowing the population to quickly skyrocket  to the detriment of biodiversity.

This is the case with the brown marmorated stink bug (Halyomorpha halys), theatrically called “diabolical stink bug” in french media even if this Asian insect has no true desire to harm humans. Still, its imminent establishment in Québec is alarming, since it consumes dozens of edible and decorative plants, and gives off a nauseating odor in buildings where it takes refuge for the winter. 

Pesticide alert

As an indirect consequence of globalization, more and more exotic species are being introduced all over the world, threatening natural, agricultural, and forest environments. The issue being both ecological and economic, methods of control are rapidly put in place in the case of major outbreaks, where the use of pesticides prevails. This strategy is counterproductive in the long term, as it harms the pest species as well as those that naturally control their populations.

Yet, there exists an excellent alternative, one that’s still underestimated in developed countries: biological control. Hundreds of years old, it manages to control pests solely by way of their natural enemies, for which appropriate conditions and habitats are provided. The key to success resides in the choice of agents, whose targeted activity respects the balance of the ecosystem.

Little wasp, big solution

In biological control, the most effective agents are parasitoid wasps. These tiny hymenopterans develop just like Alien: the mother lays her eggs inside a specific host, which will die following larval development and its extraction as an adult. But unlike the famous extraterrestrial (and pesticides as well), they’re completely harmless for humankind.

This type of parasite would be an excellent candidate for the control of the brown marmorated stink bug. However, it might prove necessary to use a natural enemy coming from its country of origin and not occurring naturally in Québec. The deliberate introduction of a new exotic species seems counterintuitive, but strict protocols are followed in this kind of situation (classical biological control) to make sure that the agent will not affect local flora and fauna.

Confronted with the invasion of significant pests, it is crucial not to yield to the easy solution that is massive applications of chemical products harmful to both human and ecosystem health. Research in biological control is well worth being known, for it works to develop sustainable pest control programs, preserving our natural heritage.

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