Keep an eye out for kiwifruit threat

Western Bay of Plenty residents and growers are being asked to keep a watchful eye out for a stinky pest that could devastate the region's orchards if it establishes in New Zealand.

The Brown Marmorated Stink Bug.

The Brown Marmorated Stink Bug is the kiwifruit industry's second ‘most unwanted' biosecurity threat after the Queensland fruit fly.

Kiwifruit Vine Health biosecurity analyst Matt Dyck says the risk of it entering New Zealand is now considered extreme.

The pest is highly mobile, able to hitchhike on inanimate objects such as cars and shipping containers, and is causing widespread damage to crops in the United States.

'If it were to enter New Zealand it would have no problem establishing due to our highly suitable climate and abundance of host material,” says Matt.

The number of BMSBs being discovered at New Zealand borders is increasing, with more than 140 of these bugs intercepted this summer. Two of these interceptions were detected at the Port of Tauranga.

'We have had good engagement with the public and our growers with a number of suspect finds reported, thankfully none of these detections have been confirmed as BMSBs, says Matt.

He says it's the pest's ability to enter and establish in New Zealand and the significant production impacts to many horticultural industries that make BMSB such a threat.

'It's also a serious nuisance pest with the ability to ruin gardens and orchards and infest houses.

'Any shipment or package coming into New Zealand from the States could be carrying BMSB so we want the public to be aware of what they look like, so if they do see one, they can catch it and report it to the Ministry for Primary Industries for identification.”

Matt says the bug has got a really wide host range. 'It feeds off a lot of different fruit and plants”.

'The BMSB creates a large blemish on the fruit, making it unmarketable.”

The bug can also build up to large numbers 'they can also enter houses in winter making it a significant public nuisance threat as well”.

'In the States some areas have got such large populations of BMSB people have moved to get away from them.”

As a result, increased public awareness is key to keeping this pest at bay.

Matt says while New Zealand is currently free of the BMSB, members of the public in both urban and rural areas should be vigilant in reporting any suspect finds.

'Members of the public could certainly be the first to spot it.

Matt says New Zealand does have native species of stink bug that look similar to the Brown Marmorated Stink Bug, making detection difficult for some.

'But there are a few features this bug has in particular.

Key distinguishing features of an adult BMSB are its size of 14mm-17mm – about the size of $1 coin – white banding on the antennae, and alternate black and white markings on the abdomen.

Matt says if residents do detect a bug they think may be a BMSB they should catch it and call MPI's dedicated pest and disease hotline on 0800 80 99 66.

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