Lychee giant stink bug from China threatens Taiwan harvest

Numbers of bugs found in Taichung suggest nationwide threat

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Photo by Charles Lam.

Photo by Charles Lam. (Wikimedia Commons photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – The lychee giant stink bug, which originates in China, could soon affect the fruit’s harvest in the entire country, reports said Tuesday.

The insect, known officially as the Tessaratoma papillosa (Drury), was found to have multiplied in the Taichung area in February compared to its first appearance in Central Taiwan last year, leading experts to believe it is already able to damage lychee and longan fruit harvests in all of the country.

Not only can the bug lay 70 eggs in one go, but its defensive chemicals can also cause damage if they come into contact with the human skin.

The giant stink bug originally lived in southeastern parts of China, and made its first appearance on the offshore island of Kinmen in 1999, reports said. It later made its way up to Taichung and Changhua, and with temperatures climbing above 20 degrees Celsius, it could soon expand even further, Council of Agriculture experts said.

Winter weather did not kill them, but only forced them into “hibernation” before they woke up in spring, according to insect studies.

The use of pesticides was difficult because even though they might kill the bugs, they would also kill or at least scare off the bees essential to the lychee plants, farmers said. Experts recommended two periods for treating the trees with pesticides, January-February before the warm weather sets in and October-November to reduce the number of stink bugs, while smearing glue at the bottom of the trees to prevent the insects from climbing back up.