Experts have warned of a new threat to UK wineries and fruit crops after discovering the brown marmorated stink bug in the country.
One of the bugs was caught in the Natural History Museum’s wildlife garden in London, as part of a wider study project involving the museum and the horticultural research institute, NIAB EMR.
A member of the public in Surrey, south-east England, also reported a stink bug in her home.
While the brown stink bug isn’t considered a health risk, the fast-breeding pests are capable of damaging crops, including wine grapes.
Their scent, described as an ‘unattractive almond-like smell’ by researchers, can leave its mark on wine.
Max Barclay, entomologist at the Natural History Museum (NHM), told the institute’s website, ‘If you have a bunch of grapes that contain stink bugs and you grind them up into wine, you get the smell of stink bugs in the drink.’
They can also damage grapes in the vineyard, paving the way for rot and ultimately lower harvest yields.
Native to south-east Asia, the brown stink bug is already resident in parts of Europe and the US.
‘Stink bugs breed very fast, have a long life, and the adults can fly,’ said Barclay. ‘They aren’t harmful, just mildly unpleasant.
‘They have the opportunity to invade as part of their biology,’ he added.
The pests hibernate during the winter and ‘if they hide in wooden pallets or shipping crates, they might hide in something which can subsequently be moved abroad’, he said.
It’s thought global warming has also helped the pests to find new homes.
As part of efforts to monitor the situation, Barclay asked residents to report any suspected sightings of the flying stink bugs on the NHM’s UK biodiversity group Facebook page.
They could be confused with the native green shield bug, which adopts a brown colour in winter, NHM said.
The research team published findings in the British Journal of Entomology and Natural History on 1 March.