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Italy, US added to 'stink bug season'

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 22/09/2016

Biosecurity officers are now having to watch cargo loads imported from the United States and Italy for a serious horticultural pest.

The brown marmorated stink bug, halyomorpha halys, used to be found only in Asia.

However, the bug, which feeds on more than 300 types of plants, has now established itself in the US and is spreading through Canada and parts of Europe, the Ministry for Primary Industries says.

The bug is likely to start showing up in imported cargo from the Northern Hemisphere.

"The stink bug season for us runs from September to April - the autumn and winter months in the Northern Hemisphere. That's when the bug starts aggregating in dark sheltered places, including cargo," said response adviser Catherine Duthie.

Dr Duthie says MPI and industry groups have been working together to prepare for the increased risk.

"A big focus has been bolstering New Zealand's border defences. Our border team has redeployed its officers to target inspections on containers from the United States and Italy, where the bug is well-established in some areas.

"We know brown marmorated stink bug has been causing major problems for farmers in northern Italy, so we'll be watching imported goods from this country very closely."

MPI believes the bug is most likely to establish itself in an urban setting if it gets past border controls so a campaign on recognising it is aimed at gardeners, city councils and other urban groups.

Dogs have successfully been trained to sniff the bugs out and MPI has also been developing traps and registering insecticides for it.

More than 400 stink bugs were intercepted in a 16-month period to April this year.

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