A new insect pest has been discovered on Maui that threatens a wide range of crops in Hawaii. The bagrada bug (Hemiptera: Pentatomidae: Bagrada hilaris), also known as the painted stink bug, was detected last week in a student garden by faculty at the University of Hawaii Maui College campus.
Staff from the Hawaii Department of Agriculture (HDOA) surveyed the site and detected five adult and two nymphs of the bagrada bug on Chinese cabbage and tatsoi in the garden. Specimens were collected and sent to Honolulu where HDOA entomologists confirmed the identification on Oct. 17. Subsequent surveys this week have found the infestation to be limited to the tatsoi and kai choi crops at UH Maui College. A total of 19 adults and two nymphs have been found to date.
“The bagrada bug is a serious pest of many major vegetable crops in Hawaii,” said Scott Enright, chairperson of the Hawaii 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.”
Native to Africa, the bagrada bug is related to stinkbugs and was first detected in Los Angeles County in June 2008. It has since spread to Southern California, Nevada, New Mexico, Arizona, Southern Utah and West Texas.
The bagrada bug does its damage by feeding on plants 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.
The bug is black with distinctive orange and white markings and measures five to seven millimeters long. It has a broad range of hosts, including cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, radish, turnips, watercress, kale, mustard, collard greens and various cabbages (with a preference for Asiatic varieties such as pak choy, tatsoi, and Chinese cabbage). It can also feed on corn, cucumbers, okra, sugarcane, papaya, potato, cotton, figs and some legumes. It will also host on a variety of weeds in the mustard family that may serve as a reservoir for the population.
HDOA is launching a statewide survey program for this pest. Based on the experience in other states, impacts are most profound in home and community gardens and organic farms. If you see this insect please call the Plant Pest Control Branch on Oahu at 973-9525; email firstname.lastname@example.org; or call the statewide toll-free Pest Hotline at 643-PEST (7378).