Scientists invent new traps for brown marmorated stink bugs

Scientists looking for ways of dealing with a future invasion in New Zealand of brown marmorated stink bugs (BMSB), Halyomorpha halys, have developed new traps that could be used to remove future offspring by attracting and removing males and females.

BMSB has been intercepted at the New Zealand border several times and, given the enormous crop losses the bug has caused overseas, a future invasion poses a serious risk to the New Zealand economy.

Professor Max Suckling, Science Group Leader at Plant & Food Research, and colleagues working in Italy (where BMSB have been destroying crops), have developed two traps that could be used in New Zealand for BSMB surveillance or eradication.

The “Nazgûl” trap is based on a “ghost net” design developed in the USA and contains a pheromone and insecticide-treated net attached to a coat hanger and suspended from a tree.

“The name is derived from Tolkien’s Ringwraiths and was chosen to help elicit public support for biosecurity in New Zealand to help save ‘Middle Earth’,” says Professor Suckling.

During testing The Nazgûl caught and killed all mobile life stages of BMSB and 3.5 more nymphs and adult bugs than the low-cost but inefficient sticky panel traps currently used for surveillance in New Zealand.

The scientists also developed a “live trap” which uses the wind direction, via wind vane, to trap bugs inside a pheromone-baited cylinder. This trap caught up to 15-times more adult BMSB than the sticky panel traps and could be used to remove future offspring by attracting and removing females and nymphs.

The traps are prototypes that could be used as part of a critical surveillance and/or semiochemical-based eradication response and work is ongoing, Professor Suckling says.

Read the live traps paper and watch the video HERE.

Read the Nazgûl paper and watch the video HERE. 

Source:  Plant & Food Research

Stink bug warning to importers

Biosecurity New Zealand has sent a stark message to shippers, agents, and importers that imported cargo must meet new rules intended to keep brown marmorated stink bugs out of New Zealand.

The importing industry needs to be aware that high-risk cargo that hasn’t been treated before arrival will not be allowed to come ashore in most instances, Biosecurity New Zealand spokesperson Paul Hallett says.

The aim is to keep out a highly invasive pest that could devastate New Zealand’s horticulture industry if it established here.

Biosecurity New Zealand formally issued new import rules on 22 July. They require off-shore treatment of imported vehicles, machinery, and parts from 33 identified risk countries, and all sea containers from Italy during the stink bug season. Continue reading

New marmorated stink bug regulations take effect on September 1

Biosecurity New Zealand has provisionally released new rules intended to keep brown marmorated stink bugs out of New Zealand.

The new regulations will apply to this year’s stink bug season, which starts on September 1 and will run until April 30.

Following consultation with industry, the list of countries that have requirements to treat imported vehicles, machinery, and parts before they arrive in New Zealand will rise from 17 to 33. These countries have all been identified as having stink bug populations.

The other big change is that imported cargo relating to vehicles will need to be treated offshore, including sea containers. Only non-containerised vehicle cargo has required offshore treatment in the past, says Biosecurity New Zealand spokesperson Paul Hallett. Continue reading

Stricter stink bug controls proposed for imported cargo

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) is seeking feedback on plans to introduce stricter import requirements for vehicles and sea containers.

The changes are intended to make it harder for brown marmorated stink bug to establish in New Zealand, says e, Biosecurity New Zealand spokesperson.

The invasive pest is continuing to spread throughout Europe and the United States, she says. Continue reading

Special traps set in Tauranga as part of brown marmorated stink bug surveillance

Two items of news from Biosecurity New Zealand slipped our notice in the run-up to Christmas.

One press statement advised that the agency is laying special traps designed specifically to lure brown marmorated stink bugs (BMSB), in an area in Mount Maunganui, following the detection of a lone male bug. This is a precautionary step following this detection.

The single live male BMSB was found on a side table, just inside the main entrance of a house in Mount Maunganui on 15 December. It’s not known where the stink bug came from and inquiries are continuing to try to determine a pathway. The investigation to date has found no evidence of an established BMSB population.

“We are well prepared for this type of detection and we’ve been working closely with industry on prevention activities and education for some years,” says Biosecurity New Zealand spokesperson Dr Catherine Duthie.

We will keep investigating and step up surveillance in the area to help us determine whether this BMSB is a lone hitchhiker, or whether there are more in the area.”

Biosecurity New Zealand has some of the most up-to-date detection technology currently available, including the traps we use, along with the lures and our highly effective detector dogs.

Around a dozen traps will be laid, with special lures around the area where the stink bug was detected, and near transitional facilities. A transitional facility is a place where imported items are taken to be checked before clearance for delivery to New Zealand buyers.

The traps will be checked every couple of days for the first two weeks, then every fortnight.

The special detector dog with a nose trained specifically for BMSB will also be regularly brought in to check over the area.

“The potential impact of this pest on New Zealand’s horticulture industry is serious, so we want to make absolutely certain this is the only one.” says Dr Duthie.

Biosecurity New Zealand and industry have been running education campaigns in New Zealand asking people to look out for BMSB to enable early detection.

“It is due to this publicity that a member of the public reported this pest to us, and we thank them for doing so,”
Dr Duthie said.

Alerts from the public are an important part of the system, allowing us to act quickly to eliminate any biosecurity threats. This find is a timely reminder that New Zealand’s biosecurity system relies on more than just protections at the border.”

BMSB is a shield-shaped insect about the size of a ten cent piece with distinctive black and white banding on the abdomen and the antennae. People who think they have detected a suspect BMSB are advised to catch it; photograph it; report it – call the Biosecurity New Zealand hotline on 0800 80 99 66.

Source:  Biosecurity New Zealand

Brown Marmorated Stink Bugs found in Oamaru – expert reaction

The Science Media Centre today has reacted to media reports of  26 live Brown Marmorated Stink Bugs were discovered in a box of imported shoes in Oamaru.

The centre asked an expert to comment on the reports and notes it put together an extended Q&A with experts in March.

Dr David Teulon, Director, Better Border Biosecurity (B3):

“I can’t comment on the current response, but like any find of a small population of pests like this one, it is concerning.

“BMSB is a potentially very serious pest to many of our valued plant systems: both productive and natural. But it is also an important ‘social’ pest as it is known to invade dwellings in large numbers. Unfortunately, BMSB is not the only biosecurity concern for NZ but it is recognised as one of the more problematic.

“The threat from BMSB has been known for at least 10 years now, as it has rapidly spread around the world, and the research community, including B3, is working closely with government and industry to develop tools to keep it out of the country. The recently formed BMSB Council reflects the widespread concern for BMSB invading NZ.

“The research community has also been working closely with its international collaborators in North America, Europe and China – where BMSB is present – and with Australia, where it is not found. This has provided NZ with significant external investment and in some cases saved us years in preparation time. The Australians are just as keen to keep it out as us. New Zealand researchers, government and industry had a meeting earlier this week to coordinate our research programmes.

“BMSB poses several unique challenges for us. It hides in many commodities that cross our borders – such as shoe boxes in eBay shipments – but also larger items like imported cars. This behaviour makes it very difficult to find and kill. The current ‘pheromone’ attractants are not as strong as others used in biosecurity, so it is difficult to trap it in the landscape. That BMSB can enter New Zealand in this variety of ways makes it important that all New Zealanders are on the lookout for this pest, echoing the Biosecurity 2025 programme’s theme of ‘a biosecurity team of 4.7 million’.

“One of the outstanding successes from the research community has been the research to underpin an EPA application to release the Samurai Wasp – a natural biological control agent – should BMSB establish in New Zealand. This pre-emptive approach is considered a world first and is recognised by the international community as an example of New Zealand doing things right.”

Source:  Science Media Centre

Cargo ship ordered to leave New Zealand after pest discovery

Biosecurity New Zealand has directed a vehicle carrier to leave New Zealand waters following the discovery of stink bugs and other regulated pests.

Biosecurity officers intercepted 3 live and 39 dead brown marmorated stink bugs and 69 other dead regulated stink bugs after the Carmen arrived in Auckland from Europe on Wednesday morning.

The vessel was carrying a range of vehicles from Europe and the United States.

“The interceptions indicated the cargo was likely to be infested with stink bugs. We also believed the ship itself was contaminated,” says Steve Gilbert, border clearance services director, Biosecurity New Zealand.

“We informed industry prior to the start of the season of our hard line on cargo vessels believed to be infested with stink bug.

“This is about ensuring a dangerous pest does not get a chance to establish in New Zealand.”

The vessel left Auckland earlier this afternoon.

The vessel will now have to be treated offshore before it can return, says Mr Gilbert.

“If permitted to come back, the vessel should also expect intensive inspection before we allow any cargo to be discharged.”

The Carmen is the first cargo ship to be ordered to leave New Zealand since the beginning of the 2018/19 stink bug season in September.

In February, Biosecurity New Zealand turned around 4 bulk carriers arriving from Japan due to stink bug contamination.

Source:  Ministry for Primary Industries

Bug hunters and biotremologists


Dr Valerio Mazzoni points to his prototype mating disruption system, sending vibrations down the vineyard wires against Scaphoideus titanus, the vector of the disease Flavescence dorée.

max and cages

Max Suckling holds cages containing large numbers of Brown Marmorated Stink Bug nymphs and adults collected from a massive outbreak on kiwifruit and pears in Friuli, Italy.

After a gap of 37 years between his first paper as a zoology student at Massey University on predatory and beneficial stink bugs, and only his second stink bug paper last year on sterilisation of Brown Marmorated Stink Bugs, Max Suckling is learning to be a bug hunter for this new invasive threat.

NZIAHS granted him a Trimble Award to visit colleagues in Italy, where the Brown Marmorated Stink Bug is rampaging through horticultural crops including apples, pears, kiwifruit, grape vines, corn and other crops.


Italian PhD candidate Sabina Avosani uses a laser vibrometer to eavesdrop on spittle bugs. She plans to visit the Biosecurity Group at PFR Lincoln for several months this year, to help with biotremology research on tomato potato psyllid in the PFR MBIE program “Realising Potato Export Growth”.

His projects include gaining practical experience with traps and aggregation pheromone lures for surveillance and suppression, as well as further evaluation of the potential for the sterile insect technique to be used in the event of an incursion into New Zealand.

Regular interceptions by the Ministry for Primary Industries and media interest with ships being turned away have given BMSB work some urgency, which NZIAHS recognised.

The research team at Fondazione Edmund Mach near Trento, in northern Italy, are working on an exciting new lead against these types of bugs.

Pests such as the meadow spittle bug (present in New Zealand) and glassy winged sharp shooter (present in the Cook Islands) are vectors of a major bacterial pathogen (Xyllela) that is killing olives in Europe and has badly affected grapes in California.

These bugs use low frequency sound to communicate with each other and the Italian team are pioneering trapping and mating disruption systems, redirecting vibrational communication against the bugs in the same way that Max and colleagues have developed insect pheromones for horticultural crops in New Zealand.

He says Trimble Awards and other grants from the NZIAHS are an important means by which our researchers can pursue important new scientific leads, and members are encouraged to submit proposals.

* Dr Valerio Mazzoni is the organiser of the  2nd International Symposium on Biotremology, 4-6 September 2018

* The TPP communication system is explained in a short Youtube clip called “Good Vibrations” (

* Social media content on BMSB and be found at and @profsuckling.

Science Media Centre posts expert comment on those pesky Asian stink bugs


Not in our orchards, if we remain vigilant…

As we have reported (here, here and here) several car shipments were turned away at the border last month because they were infested with Brown Marmorated Stink Bugs.

The bug has spread across the globe from its original home in East Asia and is one of border security’s most wanted.

The agricultural pest is not currently in the country, the Science Media Centre notes in a press release today. But the Ministry for Primary Industries has been asking the public to keep an eye out for the distinctive critter, which is much larger than our native stink bugs.

Biosecurity experts are worried about the impact it might have on both native plants and agricultural exports.

To help inform us about this invasive pest, the Science Media Centre sought answers to a raft of questions from biosecurity experts.

Continue reading

Biosecurity officials target vehicles and machinery from Japan

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) has introduced new measures to reduce the risk of brown marmorated stink bugs arriving in vehicles and machinery from Japan.

The changes will require all used vehicles (cars and trucks) to undergo inspection and cleaning at a ministry-approved facility in Japan before they are shipped out.

Moreover, any used machinery or other types of used vehicles from Japan will require certification proving it has undergone cleaning by an appropriate provider, says Paul Hallett, MPI biosecurity and environment manager.

Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor meanwhile has been answering questions in Parliament on the issue

Among the questions:

Hon Nathan Guy: How many live stink bugs have been found in ships destined for New Zealand from Japan over the last week?

Hon DAMIEN O’CONNOR: I’ve been unable to be in a position to count them.

Hon Nathan Guy: Is the Minister, therefore, telling the House that he’s had no formal advice from his officials as to how many stink bugs have arrived on vessels from Japan in the last week?

Hon DAMIEN O’CONNOR: No, I do not have a number, but what I can tell that Minister is that, unlike himself, we identified through a rigid, robust system of inspection of the ship—before any vehicles were put off the ship, officials identified—the presence of brown marmorated stink bugs, which are a huge threat to this country. We have upped the level of compliance and scrutiny on those ships, and we’ll stand by that regardless of whether it’s two or 2,000 stink bugs. We cannot afford to let those pests into this country.

In his announcement, Mr Hallett said nearly 95 per cent of used vehicles from Japan already go through approved facilities that are designed to eliminate the risk of biosecurity threats like seeds and hitchhiking organisms such as Asian gypsy moth.

The new requirement will be compulsory for all imports.

“The changes will significantly reduce the chance of transporting dirty vehicles and machinery that could contaminate other cargo.

“The move is the result of an unprecedented spike in the number of stink bugs arriving at the border from Japan in bulk carriers.”

The ministry has already increased the level of inspection of arriving carriers and their cargo, including the use of fogging with insecticide to flush any insects out of confined spaces.

It has directed three bulk carriers to leave New Zealand this month because of excessive contamination.

Mr Hallett says the ministry will work with industry to develop longer-term options for reducing the biosecurity risk.

The aim is to find solutions that avoid the need to turn vessels around at the border. This could include treatment prior to entering New Zealand waters or finding ways of fumigating the vessels here if any detections are made.

A treatment programme will be trialled on one of the affected ships this week. The vessel will have to pass rigorous biosecurity checks for the ministry to allow the release of its cargo.