Maui News

Invasive Stink Bug Threatens Crops on Maui

October 24, 2014, 12:35 PM HST
* Updated October 24, 12:55 PM
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Bagrada and bagrada damage on tatsoi are from the infestation found at UH Maui College. Credit images to HDOA.

Bagrada and bagrada damage on tatsoi are from the infestation found at UH Maui College. Credit images to HDOA.

By Maui Now Staff

An invasive stink bug has been discovered on Maui that poses a threat to a wide range of crops on the island and in the state, Agricultural officials announced today.

The bagrada bug (scientific name: Hemiptera: Pentatomidae: Bagrada hilaris), also known as the “painted stink bug” was found in a student garden by faculty at the University of Hawaiʻi Maui College campus last week.

Officials with the state Department of Agriculture say they detected five adult and two nymphs of the bug on Chinese cabbage and tatsoi during a survey of the site.

Bagrada and bagrada damage on tatsoi are from the infestation found at UH Maui College. Credit images to HDOA.

Bagrada and bagrada damage on tatsoi are from the infestation found at UH Maui College. Credit images to HDOA.

Specimens were collected and sent to Honolulu where department entomologists confirmed the identification on Friday, Oct. 17, 2014.

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State officials say subsequent surveys this week have indicate that the infestation is limited to the tatsoi and kai choi crops at UH Maui College.

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To date, department officials say a total of 19 adults and two nymphs have been found.

“The bagrada bug is a serious pest of many major vegetable crops in Hawaiʻi,” said Scott Enright, chairperson of the Hawaiʻi Board of Agriculture.

“We are surveying the state for any other infestations of this pest and also working on determining treatment options available for local farmers and home gardeners.”

Bagrada and bagrada damage on tatsoi are from the infestation found at UH Maui College. Credit images to HDOA.

Bagrada and bagrada damage on tatsoi are from the infestation found at UH Maui College. Credit images to HDOA.

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The bagrada bug is a native to Africa, and was first detected in Los Angeles County in June 2008.

State agricultural officials say it has since spread to Southern California, Nevada, New Mexico, Arizona, Southern Utah and West Texas.

Damage to plants is caused when the bagrada bug feeds on them, using its “needle-like mouthparts to suck the juices from the plant.”

This results in “stippled” or “wilted” areas on the leaves, and in some cases causes stunting of the plant, department officials said.

The bug is described as black with distinctive orange and white markings, and measures five to seven millimeters long.  Agricultural officials say it has a broad range of hosts, including: cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, radish, turnips, watercress, kale, mustard, collard greens and various cabbages.

While it feeds of a variety of vegetables, the bug has a unique preference for Asiatic varieties such as pak choy, tatsoi, and Chinese cabbage, agricultural officials said.

Bagrada and bagrada damage on tatsoi are from the infestation found at UH Maui College. Credit images to HDOA.

Bagrada and bagrada damage on tatsoi are from the infestation found at UH Maui College. Credit images to HDOA.

According to the Department of Agriculture, the bug can also feed on: corn, cucumbers, okra, sugarcane, papaya, potato, cotton, figs, some legumes, and a variety of weeds in the mustard family that may serve as a reservoir for the population.

Based on other states, impacts are most profound in home and community gardens and organic farms, the HDOA states.

The public is advised to report any sightings of the pest to the Plant Pest Control Branch on Oʻahu at 973-9525; email [email protected] ; or call the statewide toll-free Pest Hotline at 643-PEST (7378).

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