A bug-sniffing detector dog introduced by the Ministry for Primary Industries will help stop the potentially devastating brown marmorated stink bug from making a home in New Zealand.
An MPI labrador (named Georgie) demonstrated her sniffing skills on stage today by locating dead stink bugs hidden in a harvesting machine at the New Zealand Winegrowers conference in Blenheim.
MPI will have 2 trained dogs ready to sniff out stink bugs this summer, including a specialist dog to assist with detecting the pest in the event of an incursion, says MPI Border Clearance Director Steve Gilbert.
"While we do our best to prevent this unwanted pest coming into New Zealand in the first place, we need to be prepared if something slips through our border defences.
"Studies by the United States Department of Agriculture and our own trials show that dogs have huge potential to help detect stink bugs when they cluster in groups."
Mr Gilbert says the stink bug dogs will also assist with biosecurity detection work at the border, including locating bugs on imported vehicles and machinery.
"Georgie, who is an experienced detector dog, picked up the new scent very quickly. This suggests it should be relatively easy to train other MPI dogs at short notice for stink bug detection work."
The stink bug season will start on 1 September. Mr Gilbert says MPI will again be stepping up its efforts over the spring and summer months to stop brown marmorated stink bug from reaching New Zealand.
"This will include carrying out increased inspections of vessels and goods from the United States and countries in Europe where the bug is established."
Brown marmorated stink bug would have a serious impact on New Zealand’s horticultural industries if it became established, he says.
"Preventing a stink bug invasion is one of MPI’s highest biosecurity priorities."