The Ultimate Stink Bug Season Guide [2020/21 Update]

The Brown Marmorated Stink Bug (BMSB) is a well-known pest in the shipping industry posing a significant biosecurity risk to Australia. The bug is known to ‘hitchhike’ on cargo as it travels overseas threatening severe damage to local crops should it enter the Australian region.

Each year, the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment imposes strict regulations to prevent the BMSB’s presence in Australia, with a failure to comply resulting in a possible destruction of your cargo.  

Below, we review the important facts and statistics relevant to the measures implemented to prevent the pest from entering into Australia. We’ll also look at what you can expect for the 2020-2021 Stink Bug Season ahead.

At International Cargo Express, we engage in industry discussions to keep up to date with the latest regulations to help you stay compliant.

>>> Bonus: free download of a summary fact sheet at the end of this article! <<<

What is the Brown Marmorated Stink Bug?

The BMSB (Halyomorpha halys) is a brown insect with a shield-like appearance, native to Japan, China, Taiwan and Korea. It was believed to have been accidentally introduced into the United States in the early 1990s (having been discovered for the first time in Allentown, Pennsylvania), where it soon gained its reputation as a pest.

The BMSB feeds on around 300 crops, including critical Australian crops including but not limited to apple, citrus, soybean, tomato and corn. BMSB can cause severe damage to these crops, including the malformation of tree fruit and the stoppage of seed development. Whilst they do not present a risk to human health, they have been known to take residence in people’s homes, where they emit an unpleasant smell.

stink bug demage on crops

Further detailed scientific information can be found on the Department’s September 2015 Guide to the identification of brown marmorated stink bug, Halyomorpha halys, and other similar bugs.

Life stages of BMSB. Left to right: four nymphal stages (2nd, 3rd, 4th & 5th instar), adult male & adult female
Life stages of BMSB. Left to right: four nymphal stages (2nd, 3rd, 4th & 5th instar), adult male & adult female

Stink Bug Season Review: The Facts

During the 2019-2020 Stink Bug Season:

  • There were 221 detections of BMSB (both alive and dead) – this is a decrease from 312 in the 2018-19 BMSB season
  • 150,000 containers were subject to BMSB measures;
  • 43% of those containers were treated offshore and no BMSB intervention on arrival was required;
  • 14 incidents of bugs detected were detected on arrivalall incidents were contained and managed;
  • 6 overseas treatment providers were suspended for:
    • failing to pass an onsite audit;
    • failing to meet the scheme’s documentary requirements; or
    • confirmed failed treatments following the detection of live BMSB on arrival in Australia or New Zealand; and
    • 40 consignments that arrived in Australia untreated were re-exported.
stink bug season 2019 stats

2019-2020 Case Study

A prominent example of the stink bug severely impacting a cargo shipment occurred in December 2019 when a cargo vessel carrying over 3,500 cars was turned away after the BMSB was found onboard. The Agriculture Minister at the time, Bridget McKenzie, stated the risk onboard “was deemed too great to allow the ship to dock in Australia”.

Car Advice reported that around 4,000 Hyundai vehicles and 6,000 Kia vehicles would be delayed for several months after four ships were found with the bug. The ship Orca Ace was reportedly directed to leave Australian waters for treatment offshore, whilst the ship Dugong Ace was “subject to quarantine”.

The Minister reminded the industry that these insects would have a hugely destructive impact on Australian crops and were also a “real headache” for residents due to the smell they emit.

Key issues for the 2019-2020 Stink Bug Season

Over the course of the season, we saw emerging trends demonstrating the key issues facing importers during the stink bug season.

  • Non-BMSB containing the stink bug. Over the season, we observed packing containers mostly containing non-BMSB goods, but with a handful of BMSB-affected cargo. In these cases, the entire container needed to be treated resulting in added costs for the importer.
  • Onshore treatment of cargo. Many issues can be traced back to the onshore treatment of cargo. Where consignments could not be treated in the containers themselves, they were directed to a class 4.7 approved arrangement facility for unpacking and treatment. However:
    • the season only began with 1-2 approved arrangements – the result was that the demand far outweighed the supply; and
    • as the season progressed, the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment allowed providers to adjust plastic wrapping inside a container to allow for treatment. However, this had to be directed by the Department itself and ultimately slowed down the process.

What to expect for 2020-2021 Stink Bug Season?

The 2020-2021 Stink Bug Season will take place from 1 September 2020 to 31 May 2021. Strict measures will apply to cargo arriving into the country during this period.

All affected cargo will need to be treated if exported between these dates.

Who is affected?

The 2020-2021 BMSB seasonal measures apply to:

  • Certain goods (target high-risk goods and target risk goods) manufactured in, or shipped from, target risk countries as ocean freight. Any target high risk or target risk goods manufactured in or shipped from these countries are subject to the BMSB seasonal measures.
  • Any vessel that berths at, loads or tranships goods via these countries will also be subject to heightened vessel surveillance.

Target Risk Countries

In the 2020-21 season, the stink bug season measures will apply to an increased amount of 35 countries.

Any products imported from the below countries during stink bug season will need to be treated.

 Target Risk Countries Stink Bug Season 2021

Note: The following countries have been identified as emerging risk countries for the 2020-21 BMSB risk season and may be selected for a random onshore inspection: Belarus, Denmark, Ireland, Poland, Sweden, United Kingdom, Kazakhstan and Chile.

If your cargo originates from any of the above countries, and is not under the exempt category, your goods must be treated.

Goods At Risk of Falling Into BMSB Measures

There are three categories that your goods may fall into:

  • high risk goods;
  • target risk goods; and
  • exempt category.

High-risk goods that require mandatory treatment for BMSB are any items listed below. Please note that these measures will again capture any spare parts and accessories that are shipped with non-risk items.

Target risk goods, however, will be subject to increased onshore intervention in Australia through random inspection.

Exempt goods include:

  • Fresh Produce (including nursery stock and plants)
  • Live animals
  • Food for human consumption (including beverages)
  • Seeds for sowing
  • Registered Pharmaceuticals

For all other goods that are not categorised as high risk and target risk goods, BMSB seasonal measures do not apply. However, these goods may be subject to the measures if they are part of a container or consignment that contains any target or high risk goods.

What are the changes for 2020-2021?

  • There are no changes for the target and target high risk goods classification; but
  • Portugal, Moldova and Ukraine will be added to the target country list.

What measures will be required?

When importing goods into Australia during the 2020-2021 Stink Big Season, you will need to take important note of the following:

  • Breakbulk, flatrack and open top containers will still need to be treated offshore;
  • Six-sided sealed containers can be treated onshore or offshore – the recommendation, however, is to treat these containers offshore to remove the risk of overpacked and tightly packaged items needing to be unpacked for treatment on arrival (which ultimately creates more delays and added costs for you);
  • Goods requiring offshore treatment and arriving untreated will be prevented from discharge and/or directed for re-export on arrival;
  • All target high-risk and target risk goods will be subject to increased onshore intervention through random inspection; and
  • Non-target high-risk and target-risk goods are not subject to BMSB measures unless they are part of a consignment/container that contains target high-risk and target-risk goods.

How will vessels be impacted during stink bug season?

To prevent BMSB from entering Australia, the Federal Government will put in place the following:

  • Heightened surveillance for Roll on/roll off (ro-ro) vessels;
  • Mandatory seasonal pest inspection on arrival in Australia for all ro-ro vessels that berth at, load or trans-ship via target risk countries; and
  • Exemptions from mandatory inspections for certain vessels approved under the Vessel Seasonal Pest Scheme.

How will safeguarding arrangements be affected?

The 2020-21 Safeguarding Arrangements Scheme has been developed by the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment for importers in Australia. It acts as an alternative clearance route for goods imported via sea freight during stink bug season.

The scheme allows certain goods and supply chains to be recognised for their ability to manage the biosecurity risk offshore.

In the 2020-21 season, the minimum import volume will be reduced to consider imports of 50 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs).

Applications should be available to complete in July 2020.

How will Offshore Treatment Providers be affected?

The Offshore Treatment Provider scheme will continue in 2020-21. This scheme outlines the basic requirements for treatment providers conducting treatments for the stink bug for cargo arriving in Australia or New Zealand.

You must note that:

  • All treatment providers registered in 2019-20 will need to re-register for 2020-2021 season;
  • The Department and the New Zealand Ministry for Primary Industries have aligned the application processes and registration – the scheme allows BMSB treatments to be conducted for both Australia and New Zealand; and
  • If a treatment provider is suspended during the season, no certificate issued by that provider will be accepted regardless of date of issue. This means goods will need to be retreated on arrival.

Have the treatment minimum standards changed?

No. The Department continues to have three approved BMSB treatments:

  • Sulfuryl Fluoride Fumigation;
  • Methyl Bromide Fumigation; and
  • Heat treatment.

For onshore treatments, you can find a list of approved arrangement providers here.

All offshore treatments must be by an approved treatment provider supported by a BMSB Treatment Certificate. You can read more about this in our Complete Guide to the BMSB Treatment Certificate.

Offshore treatment providers will need to register and be approved by the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment.

If you need any further advice on how to prepare for the 2020-2021 BMSB season, please do not hesitate to contact us. Get in touch with one of our friendly Stink Bug Season experts on 1300 227 461 for a no-obligation discussion or leave a comment below.


Download our handy fact sheet with everything you need to know about the Stink Bug Season.



Hi Alan,

China is not considered a target risk country for BMSB and therefore no stink bug treatment is required for goods originating from China.


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