Professor receives grant to study stink bugs

Stink bugs have been plaguing our area for a while now, and these Asian natives are not going anywhere anytime soon. So what else is there to do but embrace them?

That is exactly what Dr. Jeanne Sullivan, associate professor and chair of the biology department at West Virginia Wesleyan College, is doing. Sullivan and Dr. Tracy Leskey of the U.S. Department of Agriculture Appalachian Fruit Research laboratory have recently been awarded a State Horticultural Association of Pennsylvania grant for $7,000. This one-year grant is for Sullivan to study of the effects of sub-lethal exposure to insecticides on mobility, feeding, and reproduction in the brown marmorated stink bug, Halyomorpha halys.

The brown marmorated stink bug has caused severe economic damage in the Mid-Atlantic States recently, causing an increase in the use of insecticides in crops. This is a highly mobile bug that moves between crops and wild hosts, and the increase in insecticide use has both economic and environmental costs.

“Coping with stink bugs is economically important to growers in Pennsylvania, West Virginia and surrounding states,” Sullivan said. “Stink bugs feed on tree and other fruit, damaging the fruit and making it unsellable as fresh fruit. And stink bugs also feed on many other crops, including sweet corn, soybeans, and home-garden favorites such as tomatoes.”

Sullivan began her stink bug research when she partnered with Leskey at the USDA Appalachian Fruit Research Lab in Kearneysville between May and December of last year, where she worked on a preliminary study of the sub-lethal effects in the pesticide bifenthrin. Her current grant will allow her to study the effects of four insecticides and the effects of sub-lethal doses on the stink bugs’ locomotion, feeding, and reproductive behavior.

“Right now, there are no good tools besides insecticides to protect crops from stink bugs,” Sullivan said. “The only viable option for non-organic growers is to spray insecticides. This research could potentially show whether insecticides that do not kill the bugs, incapacitate them in ways that protect crops. This way, growers may be able to use less insecticide and still protect crops from stink bug damage.”

To donate live stink bugs for research, anyone interested can contact her at