A northern hemisphere bug that has decimated the mid-Atlantic apple and apricot crops in the United States in recent years sparked a biosecurity emergency response when the pest was discovered in Brisbane this summer.
The brown marmorated stink bug is a major agricultural pest in Europe, Asia and North America where it has attacked over 300 plants and crops including corn, soybean, apples, grapes and peaches.
And, it has another very unpleasant habit of invading homes, buildings and equipment in large numbers during winter months and emits a foul-smelling odour when disturbed.
For the last three months biosecurity officers have maintained a surveillance and trapping operation at Lytton, Fisherman Islands and New Chum at Ipswich after the noxious beetles were discovered there in what are believed to be three separate incidents.
This week, the emergency program was lifted and response operations concluded. Relieved, Biosecurity officers have reported the three sites are now stink bug free.
They were initially detected, post quarantine on a variety of imported cargo including machinery imported from China.
Biosecurity Queensland officers worked in close partnership with staff from the Australian Department of Agriculture and Water Resources to respond to the threat.
Insecticide was applied to fruiting vegetation at each site and large insect traps set.
There have been other detections made at the border over recent months. Alert quarantine officers detected and eradicated the high priority plant pests in 25 different consignments destined for Brisbane.
The ‘hitch-hiking’ brown marmorated stink bug (BMSB) seeks shelter during the winter months and stows away in goods coming out of the northern hemisphere arriving here between September and April each year.
The Minister for Agricultural Development and Fisheries, Mark Furner is alarmed at the increasing number of detections not only in Brisbane but in other Australian ports as well.
Mr Furner said it would be a calamity if the invasive BMSB ever gets established here.
“As a matter of urgency, I have asked the Federal Minister for Agriculture David Littleproud and my other state counterparts to discuss a national preparedness strategy for dealing with this pest.
“Some interceptions involve entire ships with hundreds of vehicles and many hundreds or possibly thousands of BMSB throughout the holds.
“Some of these large infestations generated multiple quarantine management actions as the infested ships brought cargo to several ports around Australia.
“The number of border and post-border detections is increasing each year, as the pest is establishing more widely around the world.
“It is likely we may have to mount a significant emergency response to the pest in future. Therefore, it’s imperative we step up our efforts and update our plans forthwith to keep these destructive bugs out,” Mr Furner said.
“If they ever got a foothold here, eradicating them will be challenging indeed. They have a wide host range, are strong flyers, are not strongly lure responsive and will seek shelter in winter months. It’s vital we step up our prevention and eradication preparedness and protect our borders.”