Gum leaf skeletoniser found at 11 sites

Wednesday 26 February 2003

A surveillance report delivered to the Forest Biosecurity group of the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF) today, confirms that the gum leaf skeletoniser moth (Uraba lugens) has been detected on eucalypt trees at 11 known sites over a large area of Auckland, from Mangere across to the Tamaki River.

Forest Biosecurity Director Peter Thomson said the survey information will be used to help MAF to plan and activate a range of immediate and longer-term response options. "In addition MAF will undertake more research on the gum leaf skelteoniser's behaviour and will be working with both Forest Research and HortResearch to gain a sound technical basis for a meeting in Auckland on Friday 7 March where response options will be examined," said Mr Thomson.

"There have already been comparisons drawn between the gum leaf moth and the painted apple moth and there are some limited similarities. The factors that make a difference between them will include the species of trees that they affect, their biology and their relative economic impact. The host range of the gum leaf skeletoniser is generally accepted to be confined to eucalypts, they are poor fliers and they breed much more slowly. Regardless of the differences the decisions we make about the gum leaf moth will be informed by lessons learnt from the painted apple moth operation".

"Eucalypt trees are well-known 'pest magnets' and New Zealand certainly has more than its fair share of eucalypt pests from Australia, including the gum emperor moth which dates back to 1915. Gum leaf skeletoniser is the latest such pest and MAF will be taking care to ensure that the attention it receives is accurate and that the response options are realistically scaled," said Mr Thomson.

Gum leaf skeletoniser - an unwanted forest pest, native to Australia - was first detected in New Zealand in 1997 in a golf course at Mt Maunganui. The first time it was found in Auckland was 18 months ago in the Waikaraka Cemetery at Onehunga.

The Onehunga find in August 2001 resulted in a delimiting survey of a 1000 metre radius around the infested tree. At that time a total of four more silver dollar gums were found to be hosting the gum leaf moth, all within 30 metres of the original tree. These were all treated with an effective insecticide and that immediate area has been regularly monitored since without any further detections. A decision to widen the surveillance area for the gum leaf moth was taken in November 2002 after another infested tree was found during a scheduled survey of the area.

"Since then a MAF survey of high-risk sites surrounding ports and airports found an infested tree as far south as Manukau Memorial Gardens. That detection last month immediately sparked an instruction that identification and surveying of eucalypt trees be extended throughout the greater Auckland area," said Mr Thomson.

For further information contact: Peter Thomson OR Director, Forest Biosecurity Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry Tel: (04) 498 9639 Stephen Olsen MAF Corporate Communications Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry Tel: (04) 470 2753 or (025) 977 028; See also:



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