Queenslanders urged to look out for invasive ‘hitchhiker’ stink bug

News release | 07-Mar-2018

Queensland transport businesses and producers are being asked to look out for a highly invasive, foul-smelling pest insect that likes to hide and ride in freight vehicles and cargo containers.

Biosecurity Queensland Plant Biosecurity Officer Rebecca Sapuppo said the brown marmorated stink bug has recently been detected in imported cargo in several Australian states and is a significant threat to Australian agriculture.

“Early detection is the key to controlling this exotic plant pest and we need to stop it spreading to Queensland,” Ms Sapuppo said.

“The Australian Department of Agriculture and Water Resources is responsible for national border quarantine controls and they have enhanced cargo inspection regimes to minimise the chance of the pest establishing in Australia.

“However, this pest is such a serious threat to our agriculture and urban areas that every Queenslander can play their part in looking for and responding to suspect incidents of the pest.  Early detection is the key to successful eradication.

“We’re asking people to keep a watch out for these bugs and if found, whether they’re dead or alive, report them to Biosecurity Queensland so we can follow up and investigate.”

In cases where the pest has been detected, all live insects have been killed and when required, the relevant state has implemented a surveillance program to determine whether or not brown marmorated stink bugs have escaped to the surrounding area.  So far, no brown marmorated stink bugs are known to have established in Australia.

Ms Sapuppo said the pest insect which has spread to all Northern Hemisphere continents ‘hitch hikes’ with containerised goods and can cause major damage to fruit and vegetable crops and ornamental plants.

“The brown marmorated stink bug feeds on a wide range of more than 300 plant species and while feeding its saliva causes significant damage to plant tissues.

“This pest causes damage to fruit and seed production, reducing both yield and marketability.  If it’s on fruits produced for juice extraction, such as grape or citrus, the insect may taint the entire batch of juice with a bad taste and smell, making it unsuitable for sale. Once established in a cropping situation, effective control is difficult.

“The bugs are not a risk to human health, but they are an opportunistic pest that likes to hide in cargo containers and freight vehicles and they can fly, enabling them to rapidly spread into new territories.”

“In the Northern Hemisphere, this pest insect has been known to seek shelter over winter inside homes, vehicles, machinery or sheds, often in very large numbers.

“Shaped like a shield, the adult bug is the size of a five cent coin, is mottled brown in colour and emits an offensive odour when disturbed or crushed.”

September to April is the bug’s favourite time to travel and Ms Sapuppo asked Queensland transporters, farmers and residents to be on the lookout.

“Anyone who works around or receives imported goods should be vigilant for this pest which can be attached to containers, within the goods inside the container or to other goods like machinery,” Ms Sapuppo said.

“In crops and backyards, they’ll most likely be seeking food and can be found by visually inspecting the plants.

“If you suspect you have seen a brown marmorated stink bug, whether it’s dead or alive, take a photo and report the location to Biosecurity Queensland by phoning 13 25 23.

“If possible and it’s safe to do so, secure the insect in a container and place it in the freezer.”

For more information about brown marmorated stink bug, visit www.biosecurity.qld.gov.au

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