The pest's presence in Michigan was confirmed last month, an ominous development for the state's $71.3 billion agriculture and food industry. The bug has been found so far only in Eaton and Berrien counties, but it may be elsewhere as well.
"My personal opinion is that this animal could make gypsy moths, Japanese beetles, Asian ladybugs and box elder bugs look like minor nuisances comparatively," said Amy Irish-Brown, a tree fruit educator for the Michigan State University Extension Service.
The brown marmorated stink bug first showed up in the U.S. in Pennsylvania in 1998 and has spread rapidly, the Michigan Department of Agriculture said. It does little damage in its native land, where it has many predators, but that's not the case here.
An apple damaged by the bug develops what Irish-Brown called "cat facing." The fruit is still edible but looks so unattractive it's not fit to be sold.
Irish-Brown told told The Grand Rapids Press she has seen similar damage on fruit in the area the past couple of years but initially figured it was the result of a light crop.
"Now that I have seen some of these pictures of apples damaged by stink bugs, I'm guessing there's a few here and there, and it's probably going to be like that for a few years," she said.
The pesticides that work best on the bug tend to be those that have fallen out of favor with development of safer chemicals, Irish-Brown said.
State Agriculture Director Keith Creagh said his department is working with Michigan State University researchers to track the stink bug and limit its spread.