Stink bug threat to NZ

The Southland Times - - WEATHER - GER­ARD HUTCHING

It’s brown, has an in­sa­tiable ap­petite and stinks to high heaven. New Zealand or­chardists and veg­etable grow­ers are hop­ing the brown mar­morated stink bug (BMSB) does not make its home here, hav­ing cut a swathe through crops in the United States and now threat­en­ing plants in Europe.

Na­tive to China, Korea and Ja­pan, the stink bug in­vaded the United States in 1996 and has spread to nine coun­tries in Europe. It feeds on more than 300 host plants, in­clud­ing cit­rus, pipfruit, stone­fruit, berries and grapes, corn, hon­ey­suckle and roses. In a move to pre­pare for the ar­rival of the pest, grow­ers and the Gov­ern­ment have signed an agree­ment called the BMSB Op­er­a­tional Agree­ment, which sets out who is re­spon­si­ble for do­ing what, and who will pay for which as­pects of the pro­gramme.

By dint of good for­tune and public at­ten­tive­ness the bug has not es­tab­lished in New Zealand, but over the last 15 years it has been de­tected nu­mer­ous times and de­stroyed. Just last sum­mer on four oc­ca­sions a lone bug was found and ex­ter­mi­nated in places where in­ter­na­tional trav­ellers were stay­ing. The public had re­ported the ex­is­tence of the pest.

Hor­ti­cul­ture New Zealand biose­cu­rity man­ager Richard Palmer said stink bug num­bers at the bor­der were ris­ing. They were ‘‘com­ing on ev­ery­thing’’ in­clud­ing lug­gage, ve­hi­cles, med­i­cal equip­ment, pro­tein pow­der, fur­ni­ture — even Bar­bie dolls.

BMSB Coun­cil chair­man Alan Pol­lard, also chief ex­ec­u­tive of Pipfruit NZ, has seen the re­ports of $37 mil­lion dam­age to ap­ple crops in Mary­land, Vir­ginia, West Vir­ginia and Delaware.

‘‘If given the op­por­tu­nity, BMSB has the po­ten­tial to cause bil­lions of dam­age to the New Zealand econ­omy. They at­tack a wide range of New Zealand crops such as grapes, ki­wifruit, ap­ples, and stone fruit, corn and many other valu­able crops,’’

‘‘BMSB can ruin peo­ples’ gar­dens and when it gets cold, BMSB tends to bunch up in large num­bers in dark spa­ces in homes and other dwellings, mak­ing it a huge public nui­sance.’’

In the US, the bugs’ habit of set­ting up home in their thou­sands in houses has given them a grim rep­u­ta­tion. When picked up or dis­turbed they emit an off­putting pun­gent odour, and when crushed they can ex­crete chem­i­cals ir­ri­tat­ing to the skin.

The Min­istry for Pri­mary In­dus­tries said in a state­ment New Zealand’s biose­cu­rity sys­tem works to keep BMSB from es­tab­lish­ing here.

‘‘There are strict re­quire­ments on the im­ports of risk goods, for ex­am­ple mo­tor ve­hi­cles from the US, which un­dergo treat­ments prior to leav­ing the source coun­try. There is also in­creased in­spec­tion of goods from coun­tries with high pop­u­la­tion lev­els of BMSB.’’

One of the prob­lems with deal­ing with the bug is the lack of an ef­fec­tive lure for the male at the start of the breed­ing sea­son, but there are traps that work to cap­ture both male and fe­male bugs. An ap­pli­ca­tion has been made to the En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Au­thor­ity to in­tro­duce a ‘‘Sa­mu­rai’’ wasp which lays its eggs in the stink bug’s eggs, de­stroy­ing a large pro­por­tion of them.

The brown mar­morated stink bug

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