In a move applauded by industry groups, New Zealand's Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) has approved the release of Samurai wasps in the event of a brown marmorated stink bug (BMSB) incursion.
Samurai wasps are the size of poppy seeds and are said to be completely harmless to humans and animals, except stink bugs. The female wasp lays eggs inside those of the stink bug, killing the nymph in the process.
New Zealand BMSB Council chair Alan Pollard welcomed the move, labelling it a major milestone in the fight against one of the greatest threats to New Zealand's horticultural industry and urban communities.
"The industry greatly appreciates the positive decision and acknowledges the consideration given by the EPA to the significant number of submissions made on the application," he said.
"The stink bug could cause hundreds of millions of dollars of losses for our industry, as well as seriously damaging quality of life for all New Zealanders."
Studies have shown the wasp can destroy over 70 per cent of the eggs in a stink bug egg mass.
While Pollard said approving the release of Samurai as a biocontrol was a positive step, more work was required before the wasp could be used as a tool.
"It's not the silver bullet and a stink bug incursion would require a multi-faceted approach," he said. "We've seen overseas growers rely on high levels of insecticide as the primary control for BMSB and, while this wasp provides the opportunity to reduce our dependence on chemicals, a full response will require every weapon in our armory."