MAF on full alert after early warning trapping programme has first ever catch

Tuesday 1 April 2003

A nationwide trapping programme set up in 1993 had its first "catch" last week when a male gypsy moth was caught by the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF) in Hamilton.

"We have reliable information which indicates the specimen is an asian gypsy moth. The suspect moth was immediately forwarded to Forest Research on Friday and further identification work will have to be carried out," said MAF's Forest Biosecurity Director Peter Thomson

"The gypsy moth family has been near the top of MAF's list of unwanted pests for a long time so we have already gone on to full alert. We are taking immediate concurrent actions such as undertaking a ground search, deploying an intensive trapping grid, establishing movement controls and following all other aspects of our improved response plans.

"As with all surveillance and response activity MAF's aim is to achieve early detection and early eradication. We also conduct an automatic 'trace back' to see if the pest has entered on a preventable pathway. MAF Quarantine Service has previously intercepted specimens of this moth in the past on imported goods such as used vehicles. Our investigations on the origin of this catch has drawn a possible link to imported tyres or machinery and we will investigate this further," Peter Thomson said.

MAF's gypsy moth trapping programme is integral to its early warning biosecurity systems. This particular programme has been running since 1993 and involves inspecting more than 1000 traps nationwide every two weeks from October through to April each year. Traps are located in proximity to ports, airports and industrial areas.

Gypsy moth is a high profile pest internationally. It is native to Eurasia and severely damaged North American oak forests after its introduction there in the mid-1800s. MAF-commissioned research indicates that the country's native trees do not appeal to the gypsy moth. The survey found that trees such as totara and various species of beech were comparatively resistant to the moth, and that the risk of the moth establishing in these forests is low.

For further information contact: Peter Thomson Director, Forest Biosecurity Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry Tel: (04) 498 9639




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