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Stink Bugs Wreaking Havoc On Crops In Hudson Valley

HOPEWELL JUNCTION, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) -- In the Hudson Valley, it's that time of year – fall foliage, apple-picking, and, of course, stink bugs.

As CBS 2's Steve Langford reported Monday, the bugs are back, and they are hitting homes and farms hard.

The invasion of stink bugs is wreaking havoc not only on crops in the Hudson Valley, but across three dozen states. The dastardly insects have already had a devastating effect on Dave Dugas' tomatoes.

"I lost most of my tomatoes to stink bugs eaten before the tomatoes even ripened," said Dugas, of Hopewell Junction, N.Y.

Stink bugs first got to the U.S. from Asia – probably in shipping containers – back in the 1990s.

"Some other apple growers saying they have, in certain blocks of apple trees, damage that was going to be really significant -- up to 50 percent in some areas," said Josh Morgenthau, who helps run Fishkill Farms in Dutchess County.

Morgenthau said his harvest has been spared. But many others have suffered as a consequence of the infestation.

Stink bugs – apparently determined creatures – are impervious to most insecticides and inclined to seek a warm place to sleep.

"I've been having them in my bedroom, you know, crawling over my face at night for a couple of weeks now," Morgenthau said.

The brown marmorated stink bug is readily identifiable by its back, which resembles a medieval shield.

The first brown marmorated stink bug in North America was spotted in Allentown, Pa., in 1998. Since then, they have spread all along the East Coast, as well as much of the South, Indiana, Kentucky, West Virginia, Oregon and California, according to Penn State University.

The bug's native range is in China, Taiwan, Japan and Korea, where it is regarded as an agricultural pest. It attacks a variety of tree fruits and renders them unmarketable as fresh produce, according to Penn State.

In the mid-Atlantic states, there are reports of locals sweeping stink bugs off their home decks into five-gallon buckets.

"The mid-Atlantic peach crop has been all but destroyed for a few years in a row," Morgenthau said.

But squashing stink bugs is a bad idea. The Web site StinkBugs411 warns that they will emit a repulsive smell if they are squashed or even threatened.

"It's an offensive odor. It's not unbearable, but it's certainly not pleasant," National Wildlife Federation biologist Doug Inkley told Chicago's WBBM Newsradio last year. "Some say it smells a little like cilantro."

Others have compared the smell to rotting garbage.

Stink bugs apparently pose no threat to human health, but the nuisance can be staggering and the damage to the crops, so far, unstoppable.

Have you had a run-in with stink bugs? Please offer your thoughts in the comments section below ...

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