The brown marmorated stink bug is native to Asia, but it has now spread to parts of Europe and the US, posing a threat to crops and gardens. The discovery of a stinky bug in Surrey has caused concerns that they may become established in the UK.

The National History Museum reports that a lone stink bug was caught at RHS Garden Wisley this summer within weeks of the setting up of a pheromone trap. Experts suggest that the adult insect might have been a stowaway brought in with imported goods, or could be part of an undiscovered local population.

Dr Glen Powell, head of plant health at RHS Garden Wisley, believes the stink bug may become commonplace in gardens and homes within a decade, saying: “This isn’t a sudden invasion but potentially a gradual population build-up and spread, exacerbated by our warming world.”

So far, no further evidence has been found that suggests that stink bugs are living undetected in parts of England, and there have been no eggs or immature bugs that suggest they are breeding, or that a few of the visitors have hitchhiked in from abroad with goods or passengers.

Stink bugs have been captured twice before with pheromone traps, one at Rainham Marshes in Essex and another in the wildlife garden of London’s Natural History Museum, and in each case, only a lone bug was found.

Dr Michelle Fountain, head of pest and pathogen ecology at horticultural and agricultural research institute NIAB EMR, said: “[The] brown marmorated stink bug represents a significant threat to food production systems in the UK so it is crucial that we continue to monitor any establishment and spread of the pest.”

There are more than 40 species of stink bugs, also known as shield bugs, already present in the UK. Most pose no threat to plant health and are not considered pests.

Brown marmorated stink bugs have a distinctive rectangular-shaped head and get their name from the odour they emit when threatened. The insect can be confused with other species – more information can be found here.

Anyone finding what they believe to be a brown marmorated stink bug is asked to take a picture and report the sighting at BMSB@niab.com or via email to entomology@rhs.org.uk.

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