Pesky stink bugs, bed bugs pose troublesome threat in Merced County

Stink bugs bad for crops; bed bugs bad for everyone.

April 4, 2011 

The brown marmorated stink bug has been found in California, and can be devastating to crops.

MERCED SUN-STAR

  • A real stinker

    Think you might have found a brown marmorated stink bug? The bug can be identified at the Merced County agricultural commissioner's office, 2139 Wardrobe Ave., Merced. Or call (209) 385-7431.

It's ugly, it stinks, and if it gets a good hold in California it can be bad for crops.

The brown marmorated stink bug got its name because when crushed or squashed, the bug has a terrible smell.

But it's not the smell that makes the insect so bad.

"It's considered a B-rated pest," said David Robinson, agricultural commissioner for Merced County. "That means if it's found in the county, a quarantine could be imposed on crops."

The insects feed on a wide variety of food crops, including peaches, tomatoes and peppers, all of which are grown in the county.

The bug has been found in California, but Robinson said it hasn't appeared in Merced County.

"If we got one here, we would want to eradicate it and also find out how it came in," Robinson said.

Although that specific stink bug may not have found its way into the county, another tiny bug is here -- and it's really bugging some people.

The bed bug is a small, parasitic insect that feeds on the blood of mammals and birds. They don't transmit disease, but they can cause itchy welts on people.

Gary Davis, owner of Gecco Pest and Landscape Management in Merced, said he hasn't seen a lot of bed bug infestations in the city, but they are here.

"Bed bugs aren't easy to get rid of," Davis said. "The main thing is to have an inspection and find the source of the bugs."

Bed bugs, as their name indicates, like to hang around in beds. If they get in a mattress, the bed usually has to be taken apart to destroy the pest. "We encourage people who have the bugs to buy a plastic sheet to put over their mattress," Davis said.

Most people who have bed bugs discover the infestation after they've been bitten. But blood markings on bedsheets are another way the tiny bug can make its presence known. "I've had to take entire bedrooms apart to find where the bugs are hiding," Davis said.

The best way to get rid of bed bugs is to hire a pest control professional, according to the California Department of Public Health. The insect usually comes into a home on clothing, luggage, furniture or bedding from an infested building.

The department urges people who travel to wash clothing and bedding immediately after returning from a trip.

Davis said he uses products that are safe for consumers when he's trying to get rid of bed bugs. He added that killing every bug near a home isn't his goal.

"I don't believe in nuking everything," Davis said. "Everything's got a reason to be here. I don't want to take out the good bugs with the bad."

Reporter Carol Reiter can be reached at (209) 385-2486 or creiter@mercedsun-star.com.

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