Scientists in China plan to unleash an army of stink bugs on the fall armyworms that are spreading across its provinces and destroying the country’s crops, according to a report published by the South China Morning Post on June 11.
Originally native to America, the crop-devouring caterpillars reached Africa through imported produce before spreading to China in early January
Armyworms are named so because they march across landscapes like an invading army. Feasting on a diet of many plant species, including sorghum, corn and sugarcane, they can infest hundreds of hectares of crops in a single night.
Originally native to America, the crop-devouring caterpillars reached Africa through imported produce before spreading to China in early January. On account of the devastation the insects have caused in recent years, the international agricultural community has become increasingly concerned about them.
The Centre for Agriculture and Biosciences International warned in 2017 that armyworms posed a major threat to food security and agricultural trade, after the pest devastated maize crops in Africa, destroying farmers’ livelihoods.
China’s stink bug army offers a promising solution. Stink bugs are the natural predators of armyworms and make for highly effective exterminators. During a field trial in the south-western province of Yunnan, scientists found that a mature stink bug can eliminate up to 41 fall armyworm larvae a day.
To combat the armyworm infestation, the Institute of Plant Protection at the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences has created a stink bug factory, where it hopes to breed 10 million stink bugs a year.
Since its arrival in China, the armyworm has affected crops in 18 provinces and has been found in at least 92,000 hectares of Chinese farmland. It’s predicted to reach China’s corn belt in the north-east of the country this month.
China’s Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs warned that the pest “severely threatens the agriculture and grain production security of China”. A solution is urgently needed in order to stave off the widespread destruction of crops. If successful, the stink bugs could be harnessed in other countries to battle this growing threat to global crop supplies and farmers’ livelihoods.