NZ trying to keep stink bug out: Authorities on high alert

The Ministry for Primary Industries is on high alert to stop the invasive brown marmorated stink bug from making a home in New Zealand. Photo: 123rf.com
The Ministry for Primary Industries is on high alert to stop the invasive brown marmorated stink bug from making a home in New Zealand. Photo: 123rf.com

Kiwis are being warned to be on the look out for a stink bug causing havoc for farmers in other countries.

The Ministry for Primary Industries is on high alert to stop the invasive brown marmorated stink bug from making a home in New Zealand.

The bug, that eats horticultural products such as apples and grapes, is likely to start showing up in imported cargo from the Northern Hemisphere, according to MPI response adviser Dr Catherine Duthie.

"The stink bug season for us runs from September to April - the autumn and winter months in the Northern Hemisphere.

"That's when the bug starts aggregating in dark sheltered places, including cargo."

Brown marmorated stink bug is a serious horticultural pest in the United States and is also starting to spread through Canada and parts of Europe.

Duthie says MPI and industry groups have been working together to prepare for the increased risk.

"A big focus has been bolstering New Zealand's border defences. Our border team has redeployed its officers to target inspections on containers from the United States and Italy, where the bug is well-established in some areas.

"We know brown marmorated stink bug has been causing major problems for farmers in northern Italy, so we'll be watching imported goods from this country very closely."

MPI has also increased its surveillance of wharves and vessels, particularly ships that carry imported vehicles and machinery, and areas where cargo is held on ports.

MPI said the bug was most likely to establish itself in a urban areas if it gets past the border.

It is running a campaign to alert gardeners, city councils and other urban groups on how to recognise the pest.

The bug eats horticultural products such as apples and grapes. Photo / Supplied
The bug eats horticultural products such as apples and grapes. Photo / Supplied

"We want anyone that sees a brown marmorated stink bug to catch it and call MPI."

The ministry is also encouraging arriving air passengers to check their baggage and notify MPI if they find anything.

Duthie said MPI is well prepared to handle a border incursion by the bug.

"Among other things, we've just completed successful trials with the United States Department of Agriculture to see if detector dogs can be used to sniff out the bug in an outdoor environment.

"We know we can get sniffer dogs into the field at short notice if required."

She said MPI had also been developing traps and was working to register insecticides for use against the bug should it be detected in New Zealand.

MPI border staff intercepted 406 stink bugs between January last year and April this year.

The brown marmorated stink bug

• The pest is a voracious eater of horticulture produce including apples, grapes and tomatoes

• A wide range of crops would be unmarketable if damaged by the bug. In the US some growers have reported crop losses of up to 95 per cent

• It is resistant to many insecticides, making it difficult and expensive to control

• When it gets cold, the stink bug bunches up in dark spaces in homes making it a major public nuisance.

- NZ Herald

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