Stink bugs: Evolution in action

If you live anywhere in the northeastern United States, you’ve probably seen brown marmorated stink bugs. They arrived in North American from Asia and were first spotted in Pennsylvania in the early 1990s; now they live in 40 states. In the winter, they hide out in our houses, and in the summer, they eat our crops. Huge resources are being devoted to controlling them.

Yet according to a recent article in the New York Times, several native predators can help us control this invasive pest. These include the yellow garden spider; several species of praying mantis, including the native Carolina mantis; and the wheel bug, a fearsome but beneficial native insect. In addition to stink bugs, wheel bugs also eat japanese beetles. (And I have noticed that the numbers of japanese beetles I see in my garden have decreased notably over the years.)

Scientists report that populations of large predator insects have increased in recent years. That’s now nature works: a new pest appears, putting the ecosystem out of balance, and nature finds ways to control it and restore balance. Isn’t it cool to think that evolution is happening right outside in our gardens? Next spring when you get out into the garden, put down the spray can, look around you, and consider letting nature take care of itself. (But do kill the stink bugs you find in your house this winter. Ick.)

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