The Brown marmorated stink bug (Halyomorpha halys) is an insect of Asian origin that was first detected in Spain in 2016, although it had already been detected in other European countries since 2004, and whose proliferation poses a very serious threat to crops.
In Spain, it has so far only been detected in Catalonia and is still in the early stages of invasion; however, the Catalan administration has already raised the alarm and has developed different initiatives to keep it under control.
In the spring, the insect comes out from the hibernation phase and starts to mate. It is a very polyphagous species, with great flexibility when it comes to food consumption. If its growth isn't stopped, the populations can reach agricultural areas with devastating consequences. In the US, it took 14 years to become the most important pest in recent history, causing 37 million dollars in losses in the fruit growing sector.
In Europe, Italy has been the first country that has suffered the consequences of its aggressiveness. In less than 10 years since its arrival, the insect has dealt a lethal blow to the Italian fruit industry, taking a toll on the production of apples, pears, kiwifruit, peaches, apricots, cherries, walnuts and even corn and soybeans, with losses reaching up to 100%. So far in 2019, the value of the damages has been estimated at 250 million Euro.
Since it is a foreign species, it has no natural enemies that can control its development and, therefore, only phytosanitary treatments are effective. The tests carried out in the US revealed that organophosphates, pyrethroids and neonicotinoids are the most effective substances; however, the authorizations for their use are questioned in Europe.
Given this situation, the Nerthus agricultural management platform argues that European policies are increasingly restrictive when it comes to the use of phytosanitary products, and that this puts European producers in a vulnerable position against pests.
Both the recent decision to restrict the use of neonicotinoids and the possible prohibition of the market's latest organophosphorus, like methyl chlorpyrifos, show that EU member states are enforcing unjustified restrictions, adopting protective measures against the suspicion of serious health or environment risks without definitive scientific evidence.
The regulation foresaw supporting the development of alternative solutions to phytosanitary products, but those solutions are not arriving. Without alternatives and with a restrictive policy, European producers could face serious consequences, according to Nerthus. The first is a loss of profitability and the second a greater risk of resistance to insecticides, given the reduction in the number of products.