LANHAM, Md. (CBSDC) — Not only is the government shutdown causing problems for furloughed federal employees, it’s also indirectly benefitting one of nature’s nuances: stink bugs.
The smelly pests, which are popular in the mid-Atlantic region, are expected to be out in droves this year. Chris Bergh, an entomologist working at Virginia Tech, said this year’s stink bug numbers could be on par with 2010, which was the initial outbreak year, and that the government shutdown isn’t helping.
That’s because government-funded research into finding ways to control the bugs’ booming population is on hiatus. Scientists at the U.S. Department of Agriculture who are in charge of tracking and documenting the bugs aren’t allowed to work during the shutdown, which is now in its third week.
Begh said the shutdown has “disrupted our ability to interact directly with the project director” at the USDA, which is coordinating the “multi-state, multi-institution project.” He also said that applications for new research grants are threatened due to the shutdown.
The timing of the shutdown is especially poor, Bergh said, since the pre-winter period is when the stink bugs make their ways into homes to avoid the cold. And the problem isn’t just an odorous one — the bugs also cause millions of dollars in damage to crops each year.
The “Great Stink Bug Count” research project, also run by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, asks homeowners to count the number of stink bugs in their homes and input their data on the USDA website. But that project is on hold, too, as the USDA website remains down.