Exotic Pest Worm Detected in Australia

By AAP
February 11, 2020 Updated: February 11, 2020
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An exotic pest with the potential to decimate crops overnight has been detected in Australia for the first time.

Authorities last week located six fall armyworm moths on the northern Torres Strait islands of Saibai and Erub.

The pest – which is different to other types of armyworm commonly found in southern Australia – originates from the tropical and subtropical regions of the Americas.

It has spread rapidly to other parts of the world since 2016.

The larvae is known to eat more than 350 plant species including maize, cotton, rice, sorghum, sugarcane, wheat and vegetable and fruit crops.

Without control measures it can destroy crops overnight when population levels are high.

Adult moths can travel 100km in one night, meaning it can spread quickly.

The Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries is working with the Australian Government, and with industry groups and communities, to assess the distribution and threat of the pest, and develop a response strategy.

There is no suggestion it has spread yet to the mainland, however traps will be set in northern and central Queensland as a precaution.

Biosecurity Queensland says it will also work closely with traditional land owners in the region to control the movement of plant and soil between the islands and the mainland, and between Papua New Guinea and the Torres Strait Islands.

What is the Fall Armyworm?

* This exotic pest is a big brown moth, with a striped caterpillar larval stage

* It’s a different type of armyworm to those commonly found in southern Australia

Where is it From?

* It originated from tropical and subtropical parts of the Americas

* Since 2016 it has rapidly spread to other parts of the world

Is it Found in Australia?

* It was detected last week on the northern Torres Strait islands of Saibai and Erub

* This is the first time it’s been found anywhere in Australia

Why is it a Problem?

* Larvae can decimate crops overnight

* They eat more than 350 plant species including wheat, sorghum, cotton, maize, fruit and vegetables

* The R strain found in the Torres Strait prefers rice, millet and pasture grasses, but will still eat other crops

* Adult moths can fly up to 100km each night

What is Being Done?

* Authorities are trying to assess how far it has spread

* Traps will be set up in northern and central Queensland

* These traps will be baited with pheromones to lure male moths

* Authorities will also ramp up monitoring on the illegal importation or movement of infested plant material

* Anyone should report signs of the pest to Biosecurity Queensland on 13 25 23