Tuesday, May 17, 2022

The little bug causing a biosecurity stink

Biosecurity New Zealand has launched its winter campaign to help raise awareness of a particularly unwanted pest – the brown marmorated stink bug (BMSB).

“BMSB poses a major threat to New Zealand’s horticulture industry, with the potential to cost the country nearly $4 billion if it established here,” says Biosecurity New Zealand’s manager of readiness, Dr Cath Duthie.

“There is always the chance the unwanted pest could arrive in parcels and with other imported items. We very much want the public to help us with our surveillance efforts.”

The BMSB winter campaign focuses on showing people how to correctly identify BMSB and report it. BMSB looks like some other bug species but has elements that make it identifiable, including white stripes or banding on its antennae and abdomen. The bug is about the same size as a 10 cent coin.

BMSB adult with characteristic markings circled.

The winter campaign follows the spring-summer campaign of 2021/22, which saw stink bug ads appear on people’s phone and computer screens. The campaign had a great result, appearing on computer screens more than 13.5 million times.

Dr Duthie says Biosecurity New Zealand asks anyone who thinks they’ve found BMSB to catch it, take a photo, and report it.

The bugs can be reported via Biosecurity NZ:

BMSB can be caught under a glass or in a container.

“Winter is the time when BMSB is most likely to be found in enclosed spaces and indoors. This can cause problems for homeowners. As summer comes, any BMSB is more likely to be found outdoors, for example in gardens,” said Dr Duthie.

There were 61 live bugs intercepted in New Zealand during the 2021/22 season, with interceptions mostly associated with imported cargo.

Dr Duthie says the number of live interceptions has dropped considerably over the past three years.

“This is largely due to the introduction of import rules that make it harder for BMSB to enter New Zealand on risky cargo such as vehicles, machinery and parts from countries with established stink bug populations. Such cargo must be treated before arriving in New Zealand during the BMSB season,” she said.

“Biosecurity New Zealand further tightened its border controls during the just-completed season. This included introducing targeted alerts on additional goods associated with BMSB detections. Consignments covered by the alerts underwent full inspection to rule out the presence of live bugs.

“The fact we have no established BMSB populations suggests that the current biosecurity approach is working well. However, the risk of an incursion is never zero, which is why we all must play our part in keeping an eye out.”

Find out more about BMSB, including how to report it, and how it could threaten New Zealand

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