Biosecurity Minister Damien O'Connor is warning travelling Kiwis to be vigilant as the high-season for the crop-eating brown marmorated stink bug (BMSB) is under way.
"We're on high alert to stop BMSB arriving in NZ. The high season runs until April 30 and we've strengthened our measures to stop stink bug establishing itself here" O'Connor said.
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It was an especially timely reminder for those travelling to Rugby World Cup matches, said O'Connor.
A recent swarm of green stink bug and yellow spotted stink bug had occurred in Kobe, Japan and Biosecurity NZ staff based there were continuing to ensure the right measures were in place, "to keep the risk offshore as much as possible" said O'Connor.
"It's a sneaky pest that we've caught at the border many times, hitchhiking on passengers and in imported goods. They're a damaging economic pest and a significant household nuisance".
"In the past few months we've increased the number of additional BMSB risk countries from 16 to 33 and we've upped our mandatory pre-arrival treatment requirements for targeted vehicles, machinery and parts".
O'Connor said Biosecurity NZ was working more closely with its Australian counterparts to identify risk offshore and co-ordinate their actions. It was also sending staff overseas to visit and audit treatment providers, shippers, and freight forwarders in Europe.
"Elsewhere, we've made it clear to all cruise ship operators that they have to show they've taken measures to prevent pests arriving here by using our accreditation system and we're working on hi-tech scanning equipment to find the bug in luggage and mail.
"We have three dogs trained specifically to find stink bugs".
No biosecurity system is 100 per cent fool proof, and observant Kiwis had spotted the bug post-border in the past four years, though no breeding population has been found said O'Connor.
The Minister thanked those who had already reported any brown marmorated stink bugs, and asked others to continue to alert any possible sightings to Biosecurity NZ.
"We need a biosecurity team of 4.7 million. We all have a part to play".
"I also want to thank all the international airlines who arrive in New Zealand for playing our new biosecurity video before arrival. The only airline that's been slow to play it on each flight is Air New Zealand, which is deeply disappointing from our national carrier. I very much hope it will be uniform across all their flights soon".
Brown marmorated stink bugs - what the public can do:
If you have been in Asia, North America, Chile, or Europe, check your luggage for the brown marmorated stink bug when you return to New Zealand. Adult stink bugs can hide in cracks and crevices so pay extra attention to these.
If you buy anything online or receive mail or parcels from overseas, check these for hitchhikers.
If you think you've found a brown marmorated stink bug, catch it and call the Pest and Disease Hotline immediately on 0800 80 99 66.
What does it look like?
Adults are about the size of a $1 coin and have:
• White banding on the antennae.
• Alternate black and white markings on the abdomen.
• Eggs that are light green, barrel shaped, and found in clusters of 20 to 30.
For more information visit the Biosecurity NZ website.