Samurai wasps could go into battle against stink bug invaders

Brown marmorated stink bugs

Defra officials are researching ways to combat the spread of brown marmorated stink bugs, which scientists believe could be heading for Norfolk - Credit: Tim Haye (CABI)

Samurai wasps could be deployed to tackle the spread of an invasive stink bug pest which experts believe may be heading for Norfolk.

Government officials are considering using the parasitoid Asian wasp as part of their strategy against the brown marmorated stink bug (BMSB), a small flying pest that emits an unpleasant almond-like odour which can stink out homes and devastate fruit crops.

The pest was confirmed in the wild in England for the first time last year - most likely after hitching a ride on packaging crates or luggage - sparking fears that it could start breeding here.

Last month, scientists said it was "almost inevitable" the pest would find its way to East Anglia, after climate and rainfall modelling identified north Norfolk as one of the perfect breeding grounds for stink bugs.

And that will worry growers of crops including apples, pears and soft fruit, which have been ruined by infestations in the US, Italy, and the pest's south-east Asian home.

Defra has published a fact sheet outlining possible pest management strategies including introducing the bug's natural enemy the samurai wasp, also native to Asia, which lays its eggs inside those of the stink bug, killing its offspring.

"It is highly likely that BMSB will be encountered more frequently in Britain as it is becoming more common and widespread on the continent," it says.

"Pest management strategies for BMSB are being researched and there are a number of promising leads involving egg parasitoids such as the samurai wasp and aggregation pheromones, but there are as yet, no effective biological control agents available specifically for this pest in the UK."

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Samurai wasps have been approved for use against BMSB in New Zealand, but UK government scientists will need to produce evidence that releasing one non-native species to tackle another will not harm native species.

As well as ruining crops, stink bugs are also a household pest, seeking shelter in homes and releasing an "aggregation pheromone" which leads to large clusters in one place, often inside houses and on window sills.

The Defra report says: "Filling the cracks around doors and windows with a silicone-based or similar sealant can help to prevent such invasions. Once BMSB has entered homes, removing the bugs with vacuum cleaners is recommended in the USA."

  • Landowners are asked to report stink bug sightings to the Animal and Plant Health Agency on 0300 1000 313 or so their spread can be monitored.
How to identify a brown marmorated stink bug

How to identify a brown marmorated stink bug - Credit: Tim Haye (CABI)