EPA seeks views on nipping Stink Bug in the bud

The Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) is seeking views on whether the rules around the use of a neonicotinoid insecticide to stop brown marmorated stink bugs (BMSB) invading New Zealand should be changed.

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) has applied to increase the use of Actara insecticide from four applications per year up to a maximum of 19 in a single area.

The additional use would only be in response to a serious BMSB incursion, and solely by approved chemical operators.

The amount per application is not being considered as part of the modified reassessment being carried out by the EPA.

This could potentially involve the use of Actara on plants in flower or likely to flower, which is currently prohibited because neonicotinoids are toxic to bees and other pollinators.

Approved biosecurity chemical operators will mitigate the risks to pollinator insects by following a set of rules, including timing spraying to avoid key pollination times.

BMSBs represent one of the most serious biosecurity threats to New Zealand, with the potential to reduce horticultural export volumes by up to $1.2 billion over 20 years, if left unchecked.

These stink bugs can damage up to 90 per cent of a crop and impact more than 300 plant species, including fruit trees and a wide range of horticultural crops.

Native to east Asia, the bugs are now present in more than 30 countries, including the United States, Canada, many countries across Europe, and Chile, and have caused billions of dollars in economic losses to global agriculture.

New Zealand has never had an established population of BMSB, and Biosecurity New Zealand border officers regularly intercept BMSB at the border. Most of these have been found dead due to treatment requirements for imported cargo.

Grounds for the reassessment of Actara use were based on significant new information about its effectiveness in containing BMSB infestations.

This public consultation enables the wider public and those in relevant industries to provide additional information on the risks and benefits of allowing the applicant to increase the use of Actara, only in response to a BMSB infestation.

Submitters can provide information, make comments, and raise issues to contribute to the EPA decision-making process.

Submissions close at midnight on 6 December 2022.

Find out more about this application to reassess the insecticide Actara

Actara contains the active ingredient thiamethoxam and is currently used in New Zealand to control scales and passion vine hoppers on kiwifruit, scales and Froggatt’s apple leafhopper on pipfruit, and aphids on potatoes.

BMSBs will settle in houses in warm, confined, dry spaces such as behind and in furniture and in wall and ceiling spaces, and in beds and clothes. Although they are not a direct threat to humans, they are known to have minor irritant effects for some individuals and release a strong and unpleasant odour if disturbed.

Risk assessments by MPI indicate that the most likely pathway of entry for the BMSB is via shipping containers and their contents, new and used vehicles, and machinery.

Source:  Environmental Protection Authority

Author: Bob Edlin

Editor of AgScience Magazine and Editor of the AgScience Blog