Garden warning: ‘Stink bug’ pest that’s ‘threat’ to crops could become commonplace in UK

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The RHS spotted the pest during a pheromone trapping project which has been put in place to monitor the bug’s spread. The brown marmorated stink bugs, which looks like a small beetle, has only ever been caught using pheromones twice before in the UK in London and Essex last year. Currently, the RHS are uncertain whether the stink bug sightings are signs of local breeding or simply lone adults entering the country via imported goods and luggage.

If the findings are a sign of a local breeding and growing undiscovered population, this could cause havoc for UK crops.

The pest is native to Asia but has recently been spotted in other parts of Europe including Italy and the USA.

The bug’s presence in the two countries has caused millions of dollars worth of crop damage each year.

It is thought that the South East of England is the Northern most limit for the bug.

However, there are concerns that climate change could see the bug spread further north.

One male adult was found at RHS Garden Wisley in a pheromone trap that was installed as part of a project led by NIAB (East Malling) and funded by Defra.

Pheromone traps release bugs’ naturally occurring scents to lure them onto a sticky panel.

The traps prove that the bugs are present and can disperse and locate others.

There are other stink bugs present in the UK but the majority are not considered to be pests as they do not threaten plant health.

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In fact, there are more than 40 species of stink bugs which are also known as “shield bugs” already in the UK.

Brown marmorated stink bugs look different because they have a rectangular-shaped head.

The reason they’re called stink bugs is because they emit an odour when they are threatened.

The pungent smell has been described as similar to coriander.

It’s said the smell is used to prevent the bug from being eaten by birds and lizards.

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They are likely to emit the smell when they are attempted to be moved from your home.

They can often be spotted around window frames.

Dr Glen Powell, Head of Plant Health at RHS Garden Wisley said the pheromone traps in their gardens enable them to “study invasive species from their arrival in the UK through to potential colonisation”.

He said: “While there is currently no evidence of breeding we would expect the stink bug to grow in prevalence and it may become problematic in gardens during summer and homes in the winter months within five to 10 years.

“This isn’t a sudden invasion but potentially a gradual population build-up and spread, exacerbated by our warming world.

“The stink bug isn’t the first to land on our shores and won’t be the last and understanding how we can best manage it is the next challenge for the research community supporting gardeners and commercial growers of fruit and vegetables.”

Dr Michelle Fountain, Head of Pest and Pathogen Ecology at NIAB EMR said the brown marmorated stink bug represents a “significant threat” to crops in the UK.

She added: “It is crucial that we continue to monitor any establishment and spread of the pest.

“The long-term development of management and environmentally-sensitive control strategies will be needed so that the research community can keep industry and gardeners one step ahead of this pest species.”

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