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Heavy Rain The Likely Culprit Of Stink Bug Evacuation, Researchers Say

BALTIMORE (WJZ)—After looking unstoppable, Asian stink bugs have finally taken a hit. They seemed to be everywhere last winter and spring, but they finished the year with far fewer numbers.

Alex DeMetrick looks at what might be causing the die-off.

The brown marmorated stink bug that hitched a ride to the East Coast in cargo from Asia a few years ago was poised to eat its way through a lot of Maryland crops last summer.

"They probably like the largest smorgasbord there is, which is everything," said Robert Black, Catoctin Mountain Orchard.

With its natural predators back home in Asia, the stink bugs looked unstoppable. But as summer ended, something happened.

"We know that in 2011 we had significantly fewer numbers than we did in 2010," said Dr. Michael Raupp, University of Maryland.

Researchers at the University of Maryland and elsewhere are trying to figure out why.

The best guess: rain--a ton of it beginning with Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee.

"It rained basically all autumn and the cool, wet temperatures may have knocked those stink bug populations back," Raupp said.

And it hit when a new generation was just beginning to hatch, which may explain why fewer of the pests are showing up indoors over winter.

Researchers are also looking into another possibility, one that would definitely be bad news for stink bugs.

"We saw many of our preying mantis's attacking these stink bugs, other predatory bugs, robber flies, spiders, birds.  We saw a lot of things eating stink bugs last year," Raupp said.

And now that it's on the menu, it might mean better natural control.

Last year's crop losses are still being added up, but in 2010 the loss to mid-Atlantic apple crops hit $37 million.

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