Garden pest that spoils crops and overwinters in homes could be commonplace within a decade, says RHS

An invasive stink bug that spoils fruit and vegetables and can overwinter in homes has been found at RHS Garden Wisley in Surrey as part of a pheromone trapping project designed to monitor its spread.

The brown marmorated stink bug has only been caught using pheromones twice before in the UK, in London and Essex in 2020. It is not yet clear whether the lone adult caught in each instance has hitch-hiked into the country via imported goods and passenger luggage or if the species is breeding locally and the findings represent an, as yet, undiscovered population.

The pest is native to Asia and has recently spread to other parts of Europe including Italy and the US where it is causing significant crop damage totalling millions of dollars annually. While the South East of England is thought to be at the northern limit of the bug’s potential range, climate change means it is likely to spread further.
The male adult was found at RHS Garden Wisley in a pheromone trap installed as part of a project led by NIAB (East Malling) and funded by Defra.  The use of pheromone traps, which release the bugs’ naturally occurring scents to lure them to a sticky panel, demonstrates that they are present and able to disperse and locate their peers, highlighting the potential for undiscovered local breeding and colonisation.

There are more than 40 species of stink bugs, also known as shield bugs, already present in the UK. The majority are not considered to be pests as they pose no threat to plant health. Brown marmorated stink bugs can be differentiated from native UK shield bugs by their rectangular-shaped head.
Stink bugs get their name from the odour emitted when threatened, for example when being removed from inside homes in the colder months. This is particularly true for the brown marmorated species which tends to congregate in large numbers around window frames.

Dr Glen Powell, Head of Plant Health at RHS Garden Wisley, said: “The installation of pheromone traps at our gardens enable us to study invasive species from their arrival in the UK through to potential colonisation. While there is currently no evidence of breeding we would expect the stink bug to grow in prevalence and it may become problematic in gardens during summer and homes in the winter months within five-ten years. This isn’t a sudden invasion but potentially a gradual population build-up and spread, exacerbated by our warming world. The stink bug isn’t the first to land on our shores and won’t be the last and understanding how we can best manage it is the next challenge for the research community supporting gardeners and commercial growers of fruit and vegetables.”

Dr Michelle Fountain, Head of Pest and Pathogen Ecology, NIAB EMR commented: “Brown marmorated stink bug represents a significant threat to food production systems in the UK so it is crucial that we continue to monitor any establishment and spread of the pest. The long-term development of management and environmentally-sensitive control strategies will be needed so that the research community can keep industry and gardeners one step ahead of this pest species.”

For more information about the brown marmorated stink bug visit

Notes to editors

Picture caption and credit: The brown marmorated stink bug found at RHS Garden Wisley in Surrey, RHS/Fryni Drizou

For more information please contact Laura Scruby in the RHS press office: [email protected]
About the RHS: The Royal Horticultural Society, the world’s leading gardening charity, was founded in 1804 by Sir Joseph Banks and John Wedgwood. Our vision is to enrich everyone’s life through plants, and make the UK a greener and more beautiful place. This aspiration underpins all that we do, from inspirational gardens and shows, through our scientific research, to our education and community programmes such as Campaign for School Gardening and Britain in Bloom. We produce key publications, hold a world-class collection of horticultural books and botanical art, and sell the very best plants and gardening gifts.
The RHS is fundraising £40m to transform our gardens, outreach and education facilities, which includes redeveloping our flagship RHS Garden Wisley and opening a new garden, RHS Garden Bridgewater, in 2021. We are solely funded by our members, visitors and supporters. For more information visit
RHS Registered Charity No. 222879/SC038262

Part of the NIAB Group and the UK’s largest horticultural R&D organisation, NIAB EMR undertakes work in perennial and clonally-propagated crops. Based at East Malling in Kent it provides scientific research, technical services and practical advice to improve the yield, efficiency and resilience of crop production across the sector.
NIAB is the UK’s fastest growing crop science organisation, with rapidly expanding research capabilities in plant genetics, agronomy, farming systems and data science, the largest national field trials capability, and strong research links with industry, Government and academia. With headquarters in Cambridge, and regional offices across the country, employing more than 400 people across the UK, NIAB provides scientific research, technical services and practical advice to improve the yield, efficiency and resilience of crop production across the arable, forage and horticulture sectors.

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The Royal Horticultural Society is the UK’s leading gardening charity. We aim to enrich everyone’s life through plants, and make the UK a greener and more beautiful place.