Nathan Milburn is hoping to shed some light on the damage stinkbugs are doing to crops all over Cecil County.
More importantly, he wants people to know why there are a line of lighted cones along Brewster’s Bridge Road.
“I want to help people understand what they are and why they are here,” Milburn said Thursday. He said the white, blue and black lights will be a curiosity to passing motorists.
“It’s going to look like a … runway going down the roadway,” he said.
The lights will be on a timer, lit from 7 p.m. until 7 a.m.
Milburn Orchards north of Elkton is participating with United States Department of Agriculture on a research project aimed at finding the best way to attract brown marmorated stinkbugs away from fruit trees.
“I’m hoping it gets them before they come into the orchard,” Milburn said.
As it turns out, the noxious pests like lights or, more specifically, certain types of light.
Starker Wright, an entomologist with the USDA Fruit Research Station in Kearneysville, W.V. said work last year discovered stinkbugs are attracted to white, blue and black light. This year the research will determine which spectrum of those lights will do the best job of giving the damaging bugs an alternative to boring into crops to suck out the juices.
“These traps are being designed as a monitoring tool,” Wright said as he finished running electricity to each.
Funded with a grant from the Specialty Crop Research Institute, Wright said 51 scientists from 14 institutes in 10 states are working on this project.
“The economic damage is clear,” he said, adding that peach and apple growers are among those that have been hit hardest. “Sweet corn got plastered in 2011.”
Pointing to a row of fruit trees in the family orchard north of Elkton, Milburn said the stinkbug caused a 25 percent loss of peaches last year.
Wright and his assistants, John Cullum and Torri Hancock erected black triangles. Atop each was set lights under clear canisters. Next to each bulb is a strip of red paper. Wright said the stinkbug would head toward the light. Upon bumping into the clear shield, the bug lands on the base of the triangle and crawls up and into the dome. There, the red paper gives off a vapor that disables the bug, trapping it inside.
“We could get up to 1,000 per day in one canister,” he said. In broader testing last year Wright said researchers collected 15,000 stinkbugs in one month.
Milburn is anxious to find something that works.
“We need a monitoring tool. First detection is very important,” he said. “We need to know when they first emerge and start invading.
“This will help determine whether (the crops) need to be sprayed and when,” he said.