Brassica-eating bug takes a bite out of Chilean veggie industry

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Brassica-eating bug takes a bite out of Chilean veggie industry

Since its first detection on Chilean soil in September 2016, the 'painted bug' (B. Hilaris) has spread to several of the key vegetable-growing regions surrounding the capital Santiago.

According to the country's Agriculture and Livestock Service (SAG) the pest, an invasive stink bug, was first observed in the Santiago suburb on Quilicura, but has since been detected in the Metropolitan Region areas of Colina, Curacaví, Lampa, Maipú, Pudahuel and Til Til, as well as Putaendo in the Valparaiso Region.

The bug takes a special fancy to vegetables in the brassica family, such as cauliflower, cabbage, broccoli, arugula and kale, but it can also cause significant damages in potatoes, tomatoes, lettuce, spinach, onions, artichokes, carrots, beans and corn. 

The pest is native to southern and eastern Africa, and as a result in the Chilean press it has been referred to as the 'African bug' (Chincha Africana), but it is also indigenous to parts of southern Europe and Asia.

Spotting and treating the painted bug 

There is nothing funny about an outbreak of B. Hilaris in your field, so growers are advised to take the appropriate steps for early detection and treatment towards eradication. 

SAG reports in its first stages the bug lays white eggs near the host plants or even on the leaves in isolated instances or in small groups.


In their immature stages the nymphs do not have wings and have a red coloring, which blackens as they get older developing a shield pattern with reddish-yellow spots. The adult bug has a length of between 6-7mm and the males tend to be smaller than the females. 

The nymph bugs eat plant tissues through their stylus, leading to a reduction in yields which causes necrotic spots and holes in the leaves of host plants. 

The B. Hilaris also damages buds and can generate markings on cruciferous vegetables rendering them unmarketable.

Preliminary studies from SAG and the National Agricultural Research Institute (INIA) in the Lampa area has shown losses of up to 35 hectares in brassica species, particularly in arugula. 

After several complaints from growers about the limited pesticide portfolio available to treat the pest, SAG has since authoritized nine products for use against the bug on particular crops. Further details can be found here (in Spanish).



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