A bug that emits a revolting stench could be heading to the UK, insect experts fear.
The brown marmorated stink bug has infested large swathes of America, with further outbreaks reported in Italy and France.
Authorities fear the bugs, which emit a stink of rotting rubbish when handled, are likely to enter the UK on imported plants.
They are a nuisance when they invade homes – often infesting beds and sofas.
Guy Barter, chief advisor at the Royal Horticultural Society, said foreign stink bugs have been “invasive and damaging in warm countries”.
Guy told AG: “Our Wisley entomologists suggest that these shield bugs, like the green shield bugs, pose a modest threat of establishing in mild southern areas only, as our climate is too cold/wet for them to thrive.
“Entomologists, however, point out that this pest enters dwellings where it does survive and will be a nuisance, in addition to plant damage.”
According to the Food and Environment Research Agency (FERA), brown stink bugs attack over 100 plant species; primarily fruit trees and woody ornamentals. Adults mostly feed on fruit, while nymphs suck juices from leaves, stems and fruit.
They’re partial to citrus, apple and plums – but have an appetite for acer, buddleia, hibiscus, lonicera and salix.
John Adlam, of grower and garden centre group the Horticultural Trades Association, said: “Shield bugs are not new to the UK as a species and we have some of the family here. UK growers have measures in place to control pests we have now, and sub-species in the future.
“The plant import business has controls in place. Plants from outside the EU coming in are subject to an inspection and certification scheme at the place of export.”