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UK winemakers on high alert after brown stink bug ‘invasion’

Winemakers and fruit farmers have been put on alert after a pest named the brown marmorated stink bug, which can spoil wine and contaminate fruit crops, was discovered in parts of the United Kingdom.

A close up of a stink bug

Fruit farmers and wineries are on high alert after scientists at the Natural History Museum and horticultural research institute NIAB EMR in Kent confirmed that the pests had been discovered in parts of the UK including London, Suffolk and Essex.

It is believed that the brown marmorated stink bug, which is already found in the United States and parts of Europe, is spreading to other parts of the world as a consequence of global warming.

As well as a more temperate climate, modern ease of travel has presented the species with more opportunity to spread in place like shipping crates.

The flying bugs can damage the value of crops by making them less aesthetically pleasing to consumers and more vulnerable to disease. While they are not considered a direct health risk to humans, the bugs can also damage wine grapes.

Their scent can leave its mark on wine, as explained by Max Barclay, an entomologist at the Natural History Museum.

“If you have a bunch of grapes that contain stink bugs and you grind them up into wine, you get the smell of stink bugs in the drink,” he said.

“Stink bugs breed very fast, have a long life, and the adults can fly,” he continued.

“They aren’t harmful, just mildly unpleasant.

They have the opportunity to invade as part of their biology”.

Scientists have been warning for some time that it was only a matter of time before the pests, which originate from South East Asia, would reach the UK.

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