Friday 17 July 2009
New pest could pose threat to UK gardens as country warms up
A pest from southern Europe, seen occasionally in the UK since 2003, is feared to be breeding on our shores according to leading charity, Garden Organic, which warns it could become more common as the climate gets hotter.
The charity, which was alerted to the Southern Green Shield Bug's (Nezara viridula) reappearance this month when one of its members living near London spotted a strange cluster of newly hatched insects in their garden, is now urging gardeners to be vigilant.
The Southern Green Shield Bug, native to southern Europe, has the potential to be a serious pest to gardeners and farmers as it enjoys eating beans, alfalfa, soya beans, tomatoes, golden rod, amaranth, cucurbits and Viburnum amongst a further 300 possible food plants worldwide. Worryingly, damage is not immediately obvious, but shows up a few weeks after the insects have been and gone. Damage includes loss of blooms, leaves and distorted fruit.
Believed to have been brought to the UK on imported fruit and veg, the bug has been an occasional visitor since 2003 but there have been few records of it breeding here. However as the climate gets warmer, so the conditions for the shield bug to breed become more favourable. The adults are vigorous flyers and have the capacity to spread rapidly.
Horticulture expert, Sally Cunningham from Garden Organic said, “This is one clear indicator that climate change is impacting our gardens. We're not suggesting that the Southern Green Shield Bug species will destroy gardens or crops, but we are urging people to be aware that as the climate warms up, new pests will appear.”
Cunningham continued, “We want people to keep an eye out for the lentil-sized youngsters, which are red and black and cluster around their eggshells on the underside of leaves for about two days after hatching. Just like our native shield bugs, these go through some very beautiful colour changes before ending up looking like rather ordinary green bugs. We'd love to know where people are spotting the bugs so that we can begin to map how far north they are moving.”
The charity suggests that the easiest way of identifying whether you have found a Southern Green Shield Bug is to catch them during their infancy, when they are more easily identified.
Despite the threat posed by Nezara viridula, Garden Organic suggests that there are ways that it can be dealt with organically. In the US parasitic wasps and flies are successfully controlling the bug, but Garden Organic advises that vigilance and inviting a good balance of other beneficial insects into the garden will also help.
For more information see Garden Organic's website for a factsheet on how to control pests and diseases organically - www.gardenorganic.org.uk
For more information contact Charlotte Corner on 02476 217707 or email at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Notes to editors
- Photo available on request shows cluster of infant Southern Green Shield Bugs on the underside of a leaf. Picture Copyright: Brian Pluthero.
- For an online identification guide into the Southern Green Shield Bug's lifecycle visit: http://www.britishbugs.org.uk/heteroptera/idcards/life_stages.html
- Garden Organic is the UK's leading organic growing charity dedicated to researching and promoting organic gardening, farming and food and has been at the forefront of the organic horticulture movement for 50 years.
- The charity, which has over 40,000 supporters, reaches more than three million beneficiaries across the world and is based at Garden Organic Ryton in Warwickshire.
- The organisation runs major research and international development programmes that help growers across the UK and overseas adopt organic methods.
- To find out more visit www.gardenorganic.org.uk