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Rapid spread of BMSB calls for extra vigilance


The rapid spread of the exotic pest Brown Marmorated Stink Bug across the northern hemisphere is putting unprecedented pressure on Australia’s biosecurity defences. While authorities work hard to keep this unwanted pest out, growers need to know what it looks like and be ready to respond if an outbreak occurs.

When you are next at a computer, take five minutes to watch a YouTube segment Stink Bug Hunters in Italy. It’s a short video, but it packs a pretty powerful punch.

As New Zealand Professor Max Suckling turns over the leaves of pears and kiwi fruit in Udine in northern Italy, ‘hunting’ is a major overstatement of what’s required. You don’t need to hunt for bugs that are swarming in the traps and up the trees, laying eggs under the leaves. They are everywhere.

“What damage have you seen here on different crops?” Max asks local Plant Health Service officer Iris Bernardinelli. “On pears, almost 100 per cent damage,” she replies.

Meet the Brown Marmorated Stink Bug (BMSB: Halyomorpha halys). According to Australia’s Inspector General of Biosecurity Dr Helen Scott-Orr, efforts last year to keep this exotic pest out of Australia ‘stretched Australia’s border biosecurity system close to breaking point’. This year is expected to be worse.

Native to Asia, the BMSB is currently establishing itself as a serious horticultural pest across the globe, first appearing in the USA in the 1990s, in Europe in 2007 and more recently in Chile.

So severe was the impact of BMSB in Italy this season that growers abandoned affected crops and the country’s entire pear crop was declared at risk. Even under netting losses of 30-40 per cent were reported.

Robert Wiedmer, Technical Coordinator at the Northern Italy-based extension group Beratungsring, and a guest speaker at the Autumn Future Orchard walks here in April, told AFG that from a first detection in 2012 and first reported damage in 2014, BMSB had spread across the entire country, where it has no native predator, with the majority of the damage recorded in the northern fruit-growing regions.

“The bug is now found all over Italy,” he said. “The first damage was observed in Emilia Romagna in 2014, and since then the infested area has expanded every year and the damage has increased.”

BMSB feeds on just about any agricultural and horticultural crop you can think of with a host range of over 300 plants ranging from stone and pome fruit, cherries, tree nuts, citrus, berries, kiwifruit, tomatoes, capsicum and other vegetables to corn, soybeans, cereals and cotton and ornamentals.

“The damage is currently being assessed; however, it can be assumed that several 100 million euros (100m Euro = AUD160m) in losses were incurred this year.”

For the full press release, as well as what growers can do against the bug, click here.


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