(CNSNews.com) - Government scientists say they need the public's help in documenting the infestation of Brown Marmorated Stink Bugs, which right now are crawling up walls and window screens, looking for ways into Americans' homes so they can survive the winter cold.Scientists from the Agriculture Department's Agricultural Research Service are seeking a daily count of the non-native pests as part of a project that is investigating the bugs' impact on fruit and vegetable crops, which has bee particularly severe in the Mid-Atlantic region.
Volunteers are asked to count the number of adult stink bugs on each side of their homes (or other specified buildings) once a day between 2:00 p.m. and 6 p.m. and record the time and total number observed on each side -- north, south, east and west. (The USDA is providing special forms to record the data.)
Scientists want to know the color of the home, and they need a description of the surrounding landscape -- corn fields, woods, hilltop, lake, highway, etc.
The counting began on Sept. 15 and ends on Oct. 15. The completed data sheets are to be mailed, emailed or faxed to government scientists when the counting is concluded.
While USDA scientists are focusing on the Mid-Atlantic region, they say they welcome data from other U.S. regions as well.
The "Stop BMSB" project, which involves more than 50 scientists from USDA and a number of universities, began in 2011.
Brown Marmorated Stink Bugs have been found in 40 states, and the crop damage attributed to them exceeds $21 billion, USDA said.
The invasive pests came to North America from Asia, apparently accidentally, in the late 1990s, when they were first found in Allentown, Pa.
With few natural predators and an abundance of food sources, they spread quickly. In 2010, they caused catastrophic damage in most mid-Atlantic states, with some growers of sweet corn, peppers, tomatoes, apples, and peaches reporting total losses that year.
The USDA is now seeking an effective deterrent.