The Ministry for Primary Industries is on high alert to stop the invasive Brown Marmorated Stink Bug(BMSB) from entering ports across New Zealand.
The bug is likely to start showing up in imported cargo from the northern hemisphere.
“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,” says MPI response adviser Catherine Duthie.
BMSB is a serious pest outside New Zealand, voraciously eating horticulture produce, including apples, grapes and tomatoes.
A wide range of crops would be unmarketable if damaged by the stink bug.
BMSB is resistant to many insecticides, making it difficult and expensive to control, with some growers in America reporting crop losses of up to 95 percent.
Catherine 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.”
In addition, MPI has increased its surveillance of wharves and vessels, particularly ships that carry imported vehicles and machinery, and areas where cargo is held on ports.
MPI believes the bug is most likely to establish itself in an urban setting if it gets past the border. So the ministry is running a marketing campaign to alert gardeners, city councils and other urban groups on how to recognise the bug.
“We want anyone that sees a brown marmorated stink bug to catch it and call MPI.”
Between January 2015 and April 2016, 406 of the bugs were intercepted.
If you sight the foreign, invasive brown marmorated stink bug, report it to MPI on their hotline 0800 809966.