The Influence of Thermal and Physical Characteristics of Buildings on Overwintering Brown Marmorated Stink Bugs (Halyomorpha halys)

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Virginia Tech

Building design, maintenance, and management can have significant impacts on accessibility and suitability for pest species. The brown marmorated stink bug, Halyomorpha halys (Stål), causes household nuisance pest problems because of its habit of using human homes as winter refuges. Studies were conducted to understand behaviors and characteristics relevant to this problem, including response to gravity, ability to pass through openings, responses to heat, and mortality estimations in wall assemblies. In the lab, winter shelter seeking bugs were shown to exhibit upward movement, and field observations of bugs on building exteriors gave similar results. In experiments testing the size limits on openings through which bugs could pass, height limited tests excluded most females at 4 mm, and all bugs at 3 mm. Pronotum width limited tests excluded most females at 8 mm and nearly all bugs at 7 mm. Accompanying measurements of over 900 bugs found an average female pronotum width of 8.33 mm and height of 4.03 mm, and male pronotum width of 7.47 mm and height of 3.50 mm, with minimum sizes indicating that only a small percentage of bugs will pass the smallest openings tested. Heat response experiments of shelter seeking bugs were first piloted outdoors, and then modified to be a forced choice indoor test. In outdoor tests on a flat plane wall section with alternating heated sections, bugs did not respond to thermal contrast but rather immediately walked off of the wall. In the indoor forced choice test, a box of four cavity walls was used. Bugs did not respond to the heated sections in either the adjacent or opposite configuration. Thermal simulation modeling was used to evaluate the possible effects of varying wall assembly materials and configurations on cold-related mortality of bugs overwintering in the cavity space behind cladding. Simulation results indicated that bugs electing to overwinter in the space between cladding and sheathing were at risk of freezing deaths, with mortality expectations increasing in better insulated buildings. The results of these studies will inform future control measures and impact studies in buildings.

Brown Marmorated Stink Bug, Halyomorpha halys, overwintering, diapause, gravitaxis, pest exclusion, thermal contrast, thermal simulation, building envelope