Garden pests: Disastrous brown stink bugs invade UK – how to spot them

Alan Titchmarsh speaks to expert about growing fruit in garden

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Fruit farmers and winemakers across the UK are on high alert after the brown marmorated stink bug was confirmed to have made its way to Britain. The pest can significantly reduce the value of crops and is causing concern among farmers as sightings spread.

The brown stink bugs have been confirmed in London, Suffolk and Essex.

Alarmingly, a member of the public has also contacted the Natural History Museum, which is performing a study on the pests, to say one was inside her home in Surrey.

The bugs are already found in the US and parts of Europe but are believed to be spreading to other parts of the world due to global warming.

Warmer temperatures allow the bug to thrive, and they are thought to travel on modern means such as in shipping crates.

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How can you spot the brown stink bug?

According to researchers in the US, these are the characteristics that set the brown marmorated stink bug apart from other stink bugs:

  • White, and alternating black, triangles on the abdomen
  • The last two segments of the antenna have both white and black bands
  • The shield behind the insect’s eyes is smooth and not toothed

If you think you’ve seen one, you can contact the Natural History Museum or the horticultural research institute NIAB EMR in Kent, who are conducting research on the insect.

Brown stinkbugs can fly, so once they’ve landed in a location they’re difficult to control.

They can severely damage the value of products such as tomatoes, apples and cucumbers.

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The crops can become deformed and vulnerable to disease.

They can also get into grapes, affecting the flavour of an entire vintage of wine.

The smelly insect gets its name from its ability to produce an unpleasant smell as a defence mechanism, similar to a pungent almond smell.

In the US, tens of thousands of brown stinkbugs have been reported invading homes, clustering around window frames.

The insect can hibernate in buildings.

Scientists have said for years that it would only be a matter of time before the insect, which originates from South East Asia, would reach the UK.

The bug is known to breed quickly and has a long life span.

Experts say the bugs are not directly harmful to humans.

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