Brown marmorated stink bug: declared pest

Page last updated: Tuesday, 29 January 2019 - 3:13pm

Please note: This content may be out of date and is currently under review.

Brown marmorated stink bug (Halyomorpha halys) is a mottle brown coloured, shield shaped stink bug. It is not found in Australia, but is well known to stow away in cargo coming out of the northern hemisphere between September and April each year.

This species has a very large host range, including fruit, vegetables and ornamental plants and trees. Overseas, BMSB is having a significant impact on agriculture and as a nuisance pest (due to its habit of seeking shelter during winter in large numbers inside buildings and vehicles).

Impact 

BMSB information video

Brown marmorated stink bug - information video

Agriculture

BMSB causes major damage to fruit and vegetable crops and ornamental plants, reducing both yield and marketability. It feeds on a wide range of more than 300 plant species, including sweet corn, tree nuts and fruits such as apples, peaches, figs, mulberries, citrus and persimmons. 

Bugs pierce the outer surface of fruit, injecting saliva and sucking out juices. This causes dimpling of the fruit's surface and rotting and corking inside the fruit. If on fruits produced for juice extraction, such as grapes or citrus, the insect may taint the entire batch of juice with a bad taste and smell, making it unsuitable for sale.

In maize and soybeans, feeding damage can stop seed development. Damage to nuts include nut abortion, shrivelled kernels and kernel necrosis. The BMSB juvenile or nymphal stages cause the most damage.

Ornamental trees such as Tree of Heaven, Princess tree, English holly, Magnolia and Chinese pistachio have been observed to be preferential hosts for BMSB. Overseas, red sorghum and sunflower have been used as trap crops as they are tall, brightly coloured and have seeds that are a good protein source. 

Buildings and vegetation, including wild and ornamental plants provide refuge for adults during winter, which are a source of re-infestation for nearby crops. Once established in a cropping situation, effective control is difficult.

Nuisance pest

BMSB is not a risk to human health but is regarded a nuisance pest. Before the arrival of winter, bugs can be found in large numbers seeking shelter from cold weather in crevices or protected areas in homes, buildings, vehicles and machinery. It has a foul smelling odour when crushed or disturbed.

Spread and distribution

BMSB 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. 

BMSB opportunistically uses cargo containers and freight vehicles to hitchhike across continents and oceans, and in recent years, due to its spread overseas, there have been increasing detections in Australia. 

It has the ability to survive in cargo for long periods by remaining in a dormant state. Additionally, its ability to fly and feed on a wide range of plant hosts enables it to spread rapidly when it is introduced to new areas.

BMSB are more frequently found on goods arriving in Australia between September and April, coinciding with late autumn and winter in the northern hemisphere.

If brown marmorated stink bugs were present in Australia, we could expect it to typically find shelter from April, and emerge again from late September.

Description

BMSB can be confused with a number of other brown coloured stinkbugs that are present in Australia, except they are larger and have distinctive markings. 

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BMSB adult
Brown marmorated stink bug eggs and nymphs on leaf
Brown marmorated stink bug eggs and nymphs
  • 12–17mm long.

  • Mottle brown coloured.

  • Shield shaped.

  • Distinctive black and white banding around the outer edge of the abdomen.

  • White bands on its antennae. 

  • Five nymph stages that range from less than 3mm to 12mm long.

  • Young nymphs have a dark head with an orange abdomen, and red with black stripes around the outer edges and down the centre.

  • Older nymphs are similar to the adult, but darker, with some small lateral spines around the front edge of the body, and banding on the legs and antennae beginning to appear.

  • Eggs are laid in clusters of 25 to 30 on the underside of leaves.

  • Eggs are light green to white in colour, and barrel-shaped.

What to look for

  • Look for unusual aggregations of stink bugs in or on buildings when the weather cools down.

  • They are attracted to light, and may be found in areas that are well lit at night.

  • Visually inspect host plants, particularly underside of leaves. 

  • They emit a foul odour when disturbed.