Combatting Stink Bug Infestations Using VOC Analysis and GC–MS

Mar 01, 2018
Volume 14, Issue 3, pg 8

Photo Credit: feathercollector/Shutterstock.comResearchers from Lincoln University, Lincoln, New Zealand, have investigated the potential of volatile organic compound (VOC) analysis using gas chromatography–mass spectrometry (GC–MS) to identify the presence of the agricultural and urban pest the brown marmorated stink bug (1).

Originating from China, Korea, Japan, and Taiwan, Halyomorpha halys has proven to be an accomplished voyager. Following its first official sighting in Pennsylvania, USA, in 2001 (2), the highly invasive species has now spread across 43 states in the USA and two provinces in Canada, as well as nine European countries, including Italy, France, Hungary, Switzerland, Germany Liechtenstein, Greece, Serbia, and Romania (1).

As a heteropteran, H. halys spends the winter months in a diapause, a state of suspended development that occurs during unfavourable environmental conditions. During this time, the insects congregate into suitable sites in very large numbers, and this behaviour has seen them become incredibly problematic for border controllers because the insect is an adept hitchhiker. However, bugs infesting shipping containers can become disrupted because of the shifting weather conditions, photoperiod shifts, and constant movements of the vessels, misinterpreting the conditions and shifting into diapause (1). This presents a unique problem because the pheromone-baited traps developed for monitoring H. halys are ineffective against diapausing populations (3). Thus, a new method of detection is required to ensure populations within international freight shipments are detected and treated, preventing this invasive species from establishing itself in previously uninhabited areas.

One potential detection mechanism is VOC analysis. Many heteropterans species release defensive VOCs usually consisting of tridecane and at least one (E)-2-aldehyde (1). Aldehydes are the odour compounds for which “stink” bugs are named (4). However, whether H. halys releases detectable VOCs has yet to be established and therefore researchers first needed to investigate if this defensive reaction is present in diapausing populations and disrupted‑diapausing populations of H. halys.

Using volatile collection traps (VCTs), solid‑phase microextraction (SPME), and GC–MS researchers investigated the validity of VOC analysis for the detection of the invasive species H. halys.

Results indicated that the only compound detected in all samples was tridecane, however, the compound is not unique to H. halys and therefore not suitable. Researchers concluded a collective of tridecane, (E)-2-decenal, 4-oxo-(E)-2-hexenal, and dodecane should be considered for a reliable emissions profile from both diapausing and diapause-disrupted adult “stink bugs”.


  1. L.J. Nixon et al., PLoS ONE 13(1), e0191223 (2018).
  2. K.B. Rice et al., J. Integrated Pest Mgt. 5(3), A1–A13 (2014).
  3. W.R. Morrison et al., J. Econ. Entomol. 110(3), 1002–1009 (2017).
  4. J.G. Millar, in The Chemistry of Pheromones and other Semiochemicals II, S.Schulz, Eds. (Springer Berlin Heidelberg, Germany, 2005), pp. 37–84.
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