The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services asked the EPA for a temporary exemption from Dinotefuran restrictions for certain fruit crops, which the federal agency granted June 29. Growers will soon be able to use the product to help protect crops of apples, pears and peaches from the stink bug, which gets its name from the gag-inducing odor it emits when crushed. The exemption lasts through Oct. 15, considered the end of the harvest season.
The insecticide has been approved for use on crops such as melons, grapes and certain vegetables but not for other types of fruit because of its unknown environmental effects, said Christopher Bergh, a Virginia Tech associate professor of entomology.
“Apples and peaches were both heavily impacted last year [by stink bugs], in some areas more than others,” Bergh said.One benefit of Dinotefuran is its short “pre-harvest interval,” Bergh said, meaning that the insecticide can be safely applied to fruit up to three days before harvest.
“For that reason, we are recommending its use particularly later in the season, when the brown marmorated populations tend to be highest . . . and feeding rather aggressively on fruit as they’re maturing,” Bergh said. “It’s a good fit for those days and weeks immediately preceding harvest.”
As part of the exemption, the EPA issued guidelines for using Dinotefuran to mitigate unintended impact on the ecosystem, including the insecticide’s toxicity to honey bees, state agriculture officials said.
Rep. Frank R. Wolf (R-Va.), who hosted a forum in Loudoun County in April, during which he heard concerns about the rising stink bug population, said in a statement that the state’s agriculture community will benefit from the EPA decision.
The EPA’s approval follows the recent passage of an appropriations bill by the House of Representatives requiring the U.S. Department of Agriculture to make the fight against stink bugs a priority. That measure directs the agency’s in-house research divisions to identify and develop methods to control the stink bug population. The bill awaits Senate consideration, Wolf’s statement said.
Tyler Wegmeyer, who owns Wegmeyer Farms in Hamilton and is a director of congressional relations for the American Farm Bureau, said the bugs contributed to the loss of more than 50 percent of his raspberry crop last year.
“Most farmers in this area have never seen anything like this,” he said of the infestation. Farmers have a better understanding of most other seasonal pests and can anticipate their arrival. “But with the stink bug, it feeds on anything, so it may be feeding in a swarm somewhere and then during the night, all of a sudden, it comes and takes over your raspberries. If you’re not out there, scouting multiple times a day, you can be really hurt by it.”