Brown marmorated stink bug

​​​​​​​Image of a brown marmorated stink bug

Brown marmorated stink bug (BMSB) [Scientific name: Halyomorpha halys] is an exotic pest that could cause major damage to agricultural crops, nursery stock and ornamental plants if it established in Australia. It’s also a nuisance because it seeks shelter in large numbers in buildings and equipment during the winter months. It has a foul smelling odour when disturbed.

This particular bug is a high priority pest, and everyone has a role in keeping it out of Australia. It is well known to stow away in cargo coming out of the northern hemisphere between September and April each year.

The approach rate of BMSB started to increase in the 2017-18 season, and this season (2018-19) has seen a further increase in BMSB detections at our international border.

Current detections

A single male BMSB has been detected on a mini-bulldozer at a dealership in Clayton, Victoria.

A biosecurity officer from the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources detected and caught the bug when conducting a routine inspection. The bulldozer had been imported from the USA.

On 14 December, another single BMSB was detected near the dealership, in a trap set by Agriculture Victoria.

Agriculture Victoria has commenced a 12-week trapping and surveillance program in a two-kilometre radius around the detection points in Clayton.

Fruit tree growers in the Clayton area are asked to be particularly vigilant for the bug and monitor their fruit for unusual damage.

If you do spot what you think could be a brown marmorated stink bug, you need to contact Agriculture Victoria quickly.  You can do this by phoning the Exotic Plant Pest Hotline on 1800 084 881.

Preventative action by government

The Department of Agriculture and Water Resources is responsible for Australia’s biosecurity at our international border and manages the risk of BMSB arriving in Australia.

Between 1 September and 30 April, which is the BMSB season, the department puts additional import measures in place for imported sea cargo. These measures apply to specific goods arriving from certain countries, where BMSB is present. 

For the 2018-19 season, measures have been applied to high risk vessels and goods, from eight countries in Europe and the USA. 

 The measures include, but are not limited to:

  • Targeted high risk goods require mandatory treatment for BMSB.
  • Goods that are identified as a risk will be subject to random on shore inspection.
  • High risk break bulk cargo and goods that are not in a six-sided shipping container must be treated off-shore. Only fully containerised cargo can be treated off-shore or on-shore.
  • Goods coming from target risk countries must be treated by a provider that is approved by the department.
  • For goods that are subject to a random inspection on arrival, the container’s seal must be intact and the goods must be inspected in the presence of a biosecurity officer.
  • There will be heightened surveillance for cargo vessels and additional pre-arrival reporting for vessel operators, who will be required to undertake daily checks of their vessels and cargo for biosecurity risks.
  • Vessels that are reported to have live BMSB on board may be not be able to enter an Australian port, or could be directed back out to sea if they are already here.

The department’s website has more detail on the seasonal measures for BMSB.

When there are BMSB detections, the department works closely with state and territory governments to manage any risk that could see the pest establish in the environment. There are national response arrangements in place for circumstances where BMSB is detected in goods that are outside of the department’s border control.

Background

The 2017-18 BMSB season saw an increase in detections, and this trend continues this season.  The increase is due to the spread of the pest in Europe, particularly into Italy.

BMSB are also known to hitchhike their way to Australia with break bulk cargo from the USA and some Asian countries. Break bulk cargo are items like vehicles and machinery that cannot be transported in a container.

During the 2017-18 season there were three post-border detections of BMSB in Australia.  Two were in Western Sydney and one in Perth.  All were associated with goods that had been imported from Italy.

The department worked with the state governments to respond to these incidents. The infested goods and containers were fumigated and surveillance has been ongoing around the affected sites.  To date, no further BMSB have been detected at these sites.

Help to identify and report BMSB

Importers/stevedores

Anyone who works around or receives imported goods should always keep an eye out for pests.  The brown marmorated stink bug and other pests stow away inside or attached to the outside of shipping containers, and they can be found within the goods in the container, including boxes and packaging.  They also seek shelter in vehicles and machinery.

The brown marmorated stink bug has the ability to survive by remaining dormant while in transit. If you notice any bugs or other pests, don’t remove the contents of the container, shut the doors and don’t allow the container to be moved

Collect any live or dead specimens and keep them in a secure container for the department to analyse. Phone the See. Secure. Report Hotline on 1800 798 636 or report online. This will put you in touch with the Australian Government Department of Agriculture and Water Resources which manages the biosecurity of imported goods.

Purchasing goods from overseas

When purchasing goods online from overseas, you need to be aware of BMSB and its potential to arrive as a hitchhiker pest within packages.

Particular attention should be paid to second hand goods or items that may have been in storage for some time.  If you receive a package that has live bugs inside, you need to take immediate action.

Re-seal the box or package to prevent further bugs escaping.  If bugs have already escaped, try to catch them and put them in a sealed container.  If you can, take a clear photo of it.  Then immediately call the See. Secure. Report hotline on 1800 798 636. This number will put you in contact with the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources, where you will be advised on what to do next.

Local residents/farmers

If you think you have seen brown marmorated stink bugs on your property or in public places, phone the Exotic Plant Pest Hotline on 1800 084 881. This will put you in touch with the Department of Primary Industries or Agriculture in your state or territory.

The brown marmorated stink bug looks similar to native Australian stink bugs but it is larger. The white bands on its antennae are a distinguishing feature.

Watch the NSW DPI brown marmorated stink bug video​.

About brown marmorated stink bug

Brown marmorated stink bug is a significant threat to agriculture due to its wide host range and the damage it can do to vegetable crops and fruit and ornamental trees. It is known to feed on more than 300 hosts, including agricultural crops such as nuts, grains, berries, cotton, citrus, soybean and some ornamental and weed plant species. 

While feeding, the bug’s saliva causes significant damage to plant tissues.

The bug is not a risk to human health but it is regarded as a nuisance pest because it seeks sheltered places to overwinter such as inside homes, vehicles, machinery or sheds, often in large numbers.

The brown marmorated stink bug is a pest that opportunistically uses cargo containers and freight vehicles to hitchhike across country and overseas.  The bug’s capability to hitchhike and fly, and feed on a wide range of plant hosts, enables it to rapidly spread into new territories.

Appearance

Image of a brown marmorated stink bug​Brown marmorated stink bug adults range in length between 12-17 mm. They are mottled brown in colour, and have a shield-shaped appearance.

There are five nymph stages that range from less than 3 mm to 12 mm long. The nymphs are orange and black when they first hatch but quickly develop a similar colouration to the adults. The juvenile, or nymphal stages, cause the most damage.

Eggs are cream to yellow-orange and approximately 1.6 mm long and laid in clusters on the underside of leaves.

They can be confused with a number of other brown coloured stinkbugs that are present in Australia. There is a comprehensive identification guide on the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources website.

Brown marmorated stink bug is native to eastern Asia (China, Japan and Taiwan) but was introduced to North America in the mid-1990s and more recently to Europe, where it is rapidly becoming a serious pest.

Trade

The brown marmorated stink bug is unlikely to be associated with commercial fruit because it is a large active insect that would be readily disturbed by harvest and packing processes.

This bug is well established in many regions of the world including China, Europe and the USA, where it is not considered to be a quarantine pest.