Painted apple moth
The painted apple moth is a native of south-eastern Australia. It poses a risk to horticulture, forestry, and the environment. Its caterpillars eat the leaves of its host, causing serious damage.
About the painted apple moth
The painted apple moth feeds on many different plants, such as apple trees, roses, pines, wattles, and acacias. It has also been found on kōwhai, karaka, and ribbonwood.
Females can lay up to 400 eggs. The eggs and cocoons can be stuck to machinery, vehicles, and containers – which is how they travel internationally.
In 1999, a population of painted apple moth was discovered in West Auckland. It was found on nearly 100 different species of plants. It cost $65 million to eradicate this pest. We declared it successfully eradicated in 2006 and don't want it back.
Global distribution of painted apple moth
Why this is a problem for New Zealand
The painted apple moth eats many plants that are important culturally and economically to New Zealand. They could cause severe damage and financial losses to forestry. The moth can feed on pine trees that are up to 8 years old. This affects the pine's growth.
If it became established in New Zealand, it could cost our economy hundreds of millions of dollars. It would harm many industries.
How it could get here
The painted apple moth can lay its eggs and make its cocoons on smooth surfaces, like vehicles, shipping containers, and machinery. It could hitchhike its way to New Zealand with other imported goods.
Where you might find it
If it does sneak into New Zealand, you'll notice damage to your garden plants and other host plants. You'll see very hairy caterpillars on the hosts.
How to identify the moth
- are 16mm long
- stay close to their cocoon (they cannot fly)
- lay their eggs near their cocoon.
- have wings
- fly during the day
- have a wingspan of up to 20mm long
- can travel up to 10km.
The painted apple moth caterpillar is really distinctive. It is:
- about 3cm long
- covered all over with long hairs.
Its head and other end have clumps of dark hair that look like horns.
Young caterpillars move by crawling or "ballooning". They shoot silk into the air and let the wind carry them.
Tell us if you see it
If you see a painted apple moth:
- photograph it
- catch it (if you can)
- call MPI on 0800 80 99 66
Find out more
Note: This information is a summary of this moth's global distribution and potential impacts on New Zealand.