Hunter has become hunted in Georgia’s separatist region of Abkhazia, as locals are now capturing stink bugs to sell to Russia.
Abkhazians are collecting the brown marmorated stink bug for export by the bucketful, thanks to an offer from Russia’s agriculture authorities, who are willing to pay 1000 rubles (just over $17) per kilo for the swarming vermin. The stink bug wiped out crops in the Russian dependency and other parts of Georgia last year.
A massive sample is needed to develop a pheromone to trap the vermin, Dzhambulat Khatuov, deputy agriculture minister of Russia, said this week during a visit to Abkhazia. “The bug is needed for additional scientific research that must be completed fast and efficiently.”
In the spirit of a subbotnik – a supposedly voluntary but state-mandated and unpaid community service in the Soviet Union – Abkhaz authorities have called for a national effort to help collect the stink bugs. “Schoolchildren, university students, the whole population must be mobilized,” said Arkadi Jinjia, head of the region’s Plants Quarantine Service.
Last year, the invasive stink bug, which originates from Asia, devastated crops in the hardscrabble, agriculture-based region. Half of the tangerine crop and two-thirds of the hazelnut harvest – both staple exports – were destroyed, according to local authorities.
“If you crack open 20 hazelnuts, more than half will be hollow,” Tamaz Tvizhba, the de-facto deputy governor of Abkhazia’s Gali region, told Sputnik last fall.
The bug spread to Georgia proper last year, invading farms and homes, and now threatens to attack southern Russia.
Giorgi Lomsadze is a journalist based in Tbilisi, and author of Tamada Tales.
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