Plant & Food Research’s Vaughn Bell has seen a lot of mealybugs in his time, but even he was stunned to see photos of infestations in Marlborough this past vintage.
Pipfruit NZ Inc. technical manager, market access, Dr Mike Butcher, has been working with MPI and local South Canterbury growers to help delineate the insect's distribution and can confirm that only a single insect has been found to date.
Stink bugs feed by puncturing plant tissue and sucking sap with their sharp piercing-sucking mouthparts.
Local growers have been searching their trees for sign of the insect and we are pleased to report no detections have been made. Close examination of the detected insect showed it to be an unmated female which, given the time of year, points to it most likely being a solitary hitchhiker insect from Asia.
"The insects are known to seek shelter and therefore 'hitchhike' on containers, cars and machinery but it is important to confirm there is no breeding population in the district and that is the point of the continued exercise." Butcher explains.
"Information and images of the insect will be made available to all local residents so that 'citizen science' can help confirm whether further insects are present - this approach has proven a key success process in other overseas and NZ detections of unwanted organisms."
This response is the first response under the new GIA approach to joint biosecurity – a partnership between MPI and industry. Pipfruit NZ Inc. in association with Kiwifruit Vine Health, the Forest Owners Association and MPI has formed a governance group to oversee the response. "It is encouraging to see GIA working successfully as a partnership after many years planning and development" Butcher says.