Invasive stink bug which threatens fruit crops caught for first time in UK

Video report by ITV News Meridian's Tony Green:

Researchers in Kent have successfully captured an invasive insect, which decimates crops of apples and pears, in the hope of estimating the damage it could cause in the UK.

The Brown Marmorated Stink Bug, which is native to south east Asia, has been a global pest for at least 15 years.

It has already invaded America and Europe, and for the last three years a network of pheromone traps across the South East have been waiting for its arrival in the UK.

This month one was caught and brought to NIAB EMR - the world famous research centre in East Malling. 

Their bad smell keeps predators away.

They get their name because of their bad smell which is one of the reasons why predators tend to leave them alone.

Research Leader in Entymology at NIAB EMR, Glen Powell, said: "It's a sap feeder so its got tubular mouth parts that it presses and pushes into plant material and particularly likes to feed on developing fruit so when it's feeding even after it's gone away the plant then reacts and you can get staining within the tissue of the fruit."

The team have set up around 20 traps to catch the bugs to help them understand exactly where the pest is and where it might move to.

Researchers in Kent have set up traps to catch the pest. Credit: ITV News Meridian

It means they can keep growers alerted and use the traps to control the pest as well. 

Fruit specialist Nigel Jenner says the industry was well prepared for their arrival as it has caused "significant damage to many fruit crops particularly apples".

The bugs can destroy apple crops. Credit: ITV News Meridian

Nigel says the research is "absolutely critical" because while they know the sort of damage that can be caused, the climate in the UK is very different and the effect of the pest could be different as a result. 

Researchers estimate that there may be a steady build up of the bugs in the UK, rather than a population explosion, giving them time to monitor it and research the most effective control measures.

The bugs can cause staining in apples. Credit: ITV News Meridian