Study of pesky insect begins

By Kelly Ducote January 27, 2014 10:32 am

Scientists hope they are closer to managing the pest 

Scientists now know a little bit more about the insect previously known as the “grass bug.”

Residents of Cricket Flat and other areas that saw plague-like numbers of the “grass bug” last summer may not see the insect disappear soon, but work to manage the pests is under way. 

Darrin Walenta, Oregon State University Extension agronomist, said since September, when residents were reporting numbers of bugs so high they could hardly go outside, more scientists have teamed up to find out what exactly the “grass bugs” are — and how to manage them.

“Now we have an absolute species identified,” Walenta said.

The Arhyssus barberi is from the scentless bug family, though those who have experienced the bug notice a distinct smell during the summer.

Walenta says he was intimidated to give a talk on the “grass bug,” which scientists have yet to give a new common name, but that he delivered a talk on the insect Jan. 7 at the Pacific Northwest Insect Management Conference.

“I left there leaving extremely happy and optimistic,” Walenta said.

In addition to about five scientists already helping Walenta with the insect, conference attendees were intrigued by his findings.

Walenta said he hopes that with the help of colleagues he can find a way to manage the insects by decreasing the use of pesticides, which can cause health problems.

“That’s what really concerns me,” he said. “They’ve been doing analysis in the lab already.”

The scientists are exploring the use of pheromones to lure the insects away from homes, though Walenta notes there is much to be done before then.

“There’s a ton of stuff we have to develop to get to that point,” he said.

Some of those efforts include finding out where the insects host. Though the insects have been called “grass bugs,” they host on a variety of plants, making monitoring difficult. The insects are widespread in the area, but not solid, Walenta said. Walenta and other researchers will be relying on residents’ help to try to see what can be done and where the bugs can be found.

In the meantime, though, residents continue calling the OSU Extension office as the bugs are now overwintering in peoples’ homes.

“What they’re dealing with now is the populations that have already invaded the house,” Walenta said.

The agronomist notes that controlling the insect isn’t a feasible option, so gaining a biological understanding of the “grass bug” and finding management techniques will be key to finding relief for Cricket Flat residents.

“We’re shooting for the moon,” Walenta said. “Some people would call us crazy, but we have to start somewhere.”

Contact Kelly Ducote at 541-786-4230 or This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it Follow Kelly on Twitter @lgoDucote.