T. Haye, CABI.

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A pest prophecy: The Brown marmorated stink bug spotted in the UK

As part of a wider study, scientists at the Natural History Museum and the horticultural research institute NIAB EMR have found evidence of the stink bug in multiple areas of the UK.

Originating from South East Asia, the Brown marmorated stink bug (Halyomorpha halys) is considered a widespread pest by fruit farmers and homeowners across the US and some parts of Europe. As part of a wider study, scientists at the Natural History Museum and the horticultural research institute NIAB EMR have found evidence of the stink bug in multiple areas of the UK.

When asked about the possible arrival of the Brown marmorated stink bug in 2014, the Natural History Museum’s Senior Curator in Charge, Coleoptera Max Barclay said it would only be a matter of time before the stink bug made its presence known in the UK.

The stink bug gets its name from the ability to produce an unattractive distinctive almond like smell which the species uses as a defense chemical. The species is known to hibernate in buildings, and there have been previous reports in the US of tens of thousands of them entering a house in the winter, clustering around window frames. Stink bugs can reduce the sell value of crops such as grapes, melons and cucumbers by piercing holes in the fruit, making them less aesthetically pleasing for buyers. This scent can affect the flavour of products such as wine if the bugs are found in the grapes used. The study found that a combination of global warming and the ease of opportunity to travel abroad is giving the species the ability to spread quickly across the globe.

The Natural History Museum’s Max Barclay made the prediction in 2014 following a trip to the US, where he noticed the similarity in climate. Mr Barclay said: ‘Stinkbugs breed very fast, have a long life, and the adults can fly. They aren’t harmful, just mildly unpleasant. They have the opportunity to invade as part of their biology, because they hibernate during the winter, if they hide in wooden pallets or shipping crates, they might hide in something which can subsequently be moved abroad.’

As part of the study the research team predicted where in the UK the stink bug is likely to be found. The London area and eastern areas of the UK are susceptible to the stink bug in the near future, if not already. Since writing the study, a member of the public from Surrey has been in touch with one of the Museum’s experts via a Facebook group and found that she had one in her home.

Mr Barclay continues: ‘They’ll establish pretty quickly, we’ve seen this in a lot of invasive species before. You find one or two and then they are everywhere. The harlequin ladybird from China arrived in 2006, and now they are enormously abundant.’ The scientists worked closely with Dr Glen Powell at NIAB to increase UK surveillance of the invasive insects. The Museum’s Wildlife Garden was used as one of the trapping sites in which one of the specimens was found.

The Museum’s Wildlife Garden Manager Tom McCarter said: ‘The brown marmorated stink bug was found on one of the hottest days of August 2020. It’s very handy to have an urban green space in close proximity of the expertise of 300 scientists. We use trapping methods in the wildlife garden as monitoring devices, they are a great way to detect the presence of a new species.’

The Museum’s Max Barclay is keen to get the public involved as an act of citizen science, members of the public are invited to reach out if they believe they have spotted a Brown marmorated stink bug in their local area. Images can be posted on the Museum’s NHM UK biodiversity Facebook group where the Museum’s scientists can help with enquiries.

The paper was published in the British Journal of Entomology and Natural History on 1st March 2021.

Notes for editors

Media contact: Tel: +44 (0)779 969 0151 Email: press@nhm.ac.uk

About the Natural History Museum:

The Natural History Museum is both a world-leading science research centre and the most-visited natural history museum in Europe. With a vision of a future in which both people and the planet thrive, it is uniquely positioned to be a powerful champion for balancing humanity’s needs with those of the natural world.

It is custodian of one of the world’s most important scientific collections comprising over 80 million specimens. The scale of this collection enables researchers from all over the world to document how species have and continue to respond to environmental changes - which is vital in helping predict what might happen in the future and informing future policies and plans to help the planet.

The Museum’s 300 scientists continue to represent one of the largest groups in the world studying and enabling research into every aspect of the natural world. Their science is contributing critical data to help the global fight to save the future of the planet from the major threats of climate change and biodiversity loss through to finding solutions such as the sustainable extraction of natural resources.

The Museum uses its enormous global reach and influence to meet its mission to create advocates for the planet - to inform, inspire and empower everyone to make a difference for nature. We welcome over five million visitors each year; our digital output reaches hundreds of thousands of people in over 200 countries each month and our touring exhibitions have been seen by around 30 million people in the last 10 years.


Based at East Malling in Kent, NIAB EMR is the UK’s largest horticultural research and development organisation undertaking work in the perennial and clonally-propagated crops sector. NIAB EMR conducts high-quality strategic and applied research in horticultural and land-based sciences, and delivers impact through knowledge, products and services that benefit public and private customers across a wide range of food and non-food business sectors. NIAB EMR is part of the NIAB group.