The brown marmorated stink bug (BMSB), originally from Asia, is regularly intercepted at the New Zealand border as it spreads worldwide. Plant and food entomologist Dr Jim Walker said if BMSB established itself it would have "serious impacts on the way crops were grown".
At a recent conference on BMSB, Professor Claudio Ioriatti said in northern Italy growers had been forced to encase orchards in insect-proof netting after sprays failed to eradicate BMSB: “One of the largest fruit-growing organisations in Italy estimated 150 million euro losses in one single year.”
He said the main issue was not that it feeds on plants, but how it feeds. "All along the fruit season, it is injecting digestive enzymes into the fruit and that causes a deformation, discolouration and pitting of the fruit."
Their name is well-earned: The bugs reek when squashed, which is of extra concern to the wine industry at harvest when fruit is crushed.
New Zealand Apples and Pears chief executive Alan Pollard said there were reports from the United States that when BMSB first arrived, horticultural producers lost 90 per cent of production.
"They have moved from spraying the crops twice a year to twice a week and they still lose 30 per cent of their production. So it is a phenomenal risk with catastrophic outcomes for the industry."