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A stinker of a problem for Australia

Industry Best Practice

brown marmorated stink bug bmsb

Q: What’s small and brown, stays in the shadows during the day, feeds at night, and releases an abhorrent stink when it’s disturbed?

A: The Brown Marmorated Stink Bug (BMSB)

It might be small in size (measuring between 14-17 mm long) but there’s no question that BMSB is an enormous pest. This insect feeds on 300+ species of plant and is powerful enough to destroy 90% of pome and stone fruit. As if that wasn’t bad enough, BMSB spends its winters infesting (and stinking out) homes in large numbers.

Native to Japan, China, South Korea and Taiwan, BMSB has since spread to Europe and the US, where it was first identified in 1998 and now resides in 38 states. Thankfully, to date, BMSB has been kept out of Australia, but if established here it would present a significant threat to agriculture and livelihoods.

Preventing BMSB in Australia 

In an ideal world, border control measures would be effective in stopping BMSB before it has a chance to wreak havoc. That’s why, for the 2019-20 BMSB risk season, NZ and Australia are collaborating to ensure their heightened biosecurity measures are consistent and effective.

But these insects are shrewd hitchhikers. Last season, NZ intercepted 200+ live BMSB including 26 bugs in a pair of shoes ordered online from the USA and 48 bugs on a single cargo ship.

Once they’re in, Australia will be hard-pressed to find a bug more difficult to control, thanks to a number of factors:

  • Hard to spot– BMSB is elusive, which means fruit damage will likely be identified long before a bug is spotted.
  • Hard to kill– BMSB has long legs, which keep it perched above the surface of its food, rendering most pesticides ineffective.
  • Global warming– In warmer regions, BMSB can reproduce more frequently, a problem compounded by climate change.
  • No natural enemies – the Samurai Wasp, which can reduce BMSB impact by 70 per cent and is found in NZ and Europe, is not present in Australia.

If you spot BMSB, who should you call?

In Australia, the National Biosecurity Communication and Engagement Network is working to raise awareness of the threats presented by BMSB, educating growers, the wider agriculture sector, importers and the general public.

Distinguishing features that set BMSB apart from similar insects such as the common brown stink bug include:

  • White banding on the antennae
  • Smooth shoulders
  • Alternate black and white markings on the abdomen
  • Eggs that are light green and found in groups of 20 to 30

If you do find suspected BMSB in your orchard, call The Exotic Plant Pest Hotline.

Register now for APAL’s Grower R&D Update on 13th November when we’ll be exploring how Australia’s agricultural industry can best prepare for an invasion of BMSB.

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