(UPDATED COVERAGE, April 14) Stink bugs caused $37 million in damage to apple growers in four mid-Atlantic states.

Apple stink bug damage totals $37 million

Growers in Pennsylvania, Virginia, Maryland and West Virginia lost crops to the brown marmorated stink bug in 2010, according to an April 13 U.S. Apple Association estimate.

About 18% of the fresh-market apples produced in those states was affected, said Mark Seetin, U.S. Apple’s director of regulatory and industry affairs.

As a percentage of total volume, Maryland was hardest hit, with 32% of the state’s fresh-market apples affected, Seetin said. Virginia, a larger producer than Maryland, suffered the largest volume loss.

The pest has been confirmed in other apple-growing states, but U.S. Apple does not have data on levels of damage.

The estimate was made at the request of U.S. government scientists, who are researching ways to control the pest, Seetin said.

Gardners, Pa.-based Rice Fruit Co. lost an estimated 5 to 10% of its fresh-market apples in 2010 to stink bug damage, said John Rice, vice president.

In preparation for the 2011 season, Rice Fruit has installed additional electronic sorting technology on its packing lines, which will make it easier to cull fruit damaged by stink bugs, Rice said. That damaged fruit can be sold to processing markets, he said.

While Rice believes scientists will come up with mitigation recommendations in time for this year’s crop, damages could still equal last season’s.

“There’s a lot of uncertainty to deal with in the coming year,” he said. “Because they feed on immature as well as mature fruit, we’ll have to fight them for most of the season.”
The brown marmorated stink bug originated in Asia and was first found in the U.S. in Pennsylvania in the mid-1990s. It has since been confirmed in 33 states and the District of Columbia.

The pest feeds on a wide variety of fruits, vegetables and program crops.