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Bug could invade New Zealand homes

6 March 2018

Bug could invade New Zealand homes

New Zealand’s homes, not just its horticulture and viticulture industries, could be at risk if the brown marmorated stink bug establishes in this country, a scientist has warned.

Dr Michael Rostás, a senior lecturer at the Bio-Protection Research Centre, based at Lincoln University, says bug home invasions could become commonplace if the brown marmorated stink bug establishes here.

“People would have to deal with large numbers of brown marmorated stink bugs entering their homes and sheds, as they like to overwinter in protected environments,” he says. “Some people may show allergic reactions to stink bug secretions, excrements, and other remains.”

Government departments, industry bodies, scientists, and others are making a concerted effort to keep the small, highly destructive pest out of New Zealand because of the widespread damage it could do.

It took just 14 years for the brown marmorated stink bug to become one of the most significant pests in the United States. Dr Rostás says that in New Zealand it would quickly establish in the North Island, and northern South Island, where it would cause “high levels of economic damage” to crops such as apples, pears, peaches, apricots, kiwifruit, and grapes.

“New Zealand growers would drastically increase the use of broad-spectrum insecticides to prevent significant losses,” he says. “This could lead to higher residue levels in fruit and vegetables. It would have detrimental effects on beneficial insects such as predators, parasitic wasps, and pollinators, leading to outbreaks of secondary pests such as mites, aphids, and scales.

“Most importantly, it would be a huge setback for sustainable pest management programmes and a serious threat for organic growers.”

Dr Rostás says the Bio-Protection Research Centre is involved in research to identify where any bugs found have come from, as well as ways to find any bugs that stow away in shipping containers.

You can read more information about how brown marmorated stink bugs could harm New Zealand’s economy, and homes, on this Q&A from the Science Media Centre.


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