Shipment bugged by stinky stowaways no match for biosecurity officers

Biosecurity officers have detected six brown marmorated stink bugs, an exotic pest that could severely damage Australian horticultural crops, in a consignment of timber from the USA that arrived in Port Adelaide earlier this month.

Head of Biosecurity at the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources, Lyn O’Connell, said despite May not falling within the usual seasonal risk period of the pest, the detection highlighted Australia’s world class biosecurity system.

“Originally from eastern Asia, the exotic stink bug has recently invaded North America and parts of Europe, where it is having a significant impact on agriculture, and it was also recently detected in Chile,” Ms O’Connell said.

“If it established in Australia, the brown marmorated stink bug would be extremely difficult and expensive to manage due to its broad host range of over 300 different plant species including berries, cotton, hazelnuts, pecans, truffles and potentially walnuts and could seriously harm our $9.13 billion horticulture sector.

“These highly invasive pests have a tendency to amass on shipping containers, motor vehicles, machinery, boats and other large items that get loaded on vessels. It is s also a strong flier, able to cover distances of up to 2km.

“They pose a high biosecurity risk to Australia because of their tendency to hitchhike, highly mobile nature and lack of effective lures. The bugs were included in the Top 40 National Priority Plant Pests last year.

“Preventing an incursion in the first place is a high priority for government and industry, and the biosecurity officers involved did excellent work in detecting these tiny five cent piece-sized insects in the large container of white oak staves, packed in the US.

“The brown marmorated stink bug, or Halyomorpha halys, is a mottle brown coloured shield-shaped stink bug which looks quite similar to many Australian native stink bugs.

“This foreign pest however, has distinctive black and white banding around the outer edge of the abdomen, and white bands on the last two antennal segments.

“The department has enhanced on-shore and off-shore measures in place to manage the seasonal risk of brown marmorated stink bug infestations in cargo from the US from September to April. This season we also increased our surveillance of high risk goods from Europe.

“This out-of-season detection highlights the ongoing risk posed by this tiny critter, as well as the success of the biosecurity measures in place, as the bugs were found dead.

“The department works off-shore, at the border and on-shore to safeguard our people, our unique environment and our $59 billion agricultural industries from the many pests and diseases present in other parts of the world.

“Support from the public, especially those working at our seaports, is crucial. By keeping an eye out when unloading vessels and moving cargo through to its destination, stevedores, truck drivers and other port staff help protect Australia from a range of harmful pests and diseases not present here.”

If you suspect you have found an exotic or unusual pest or disease please call 1800 084 881, and for a guide to identifying the brown marmorated stink bug and other pests.

Last reviewed: 4 November 2019
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