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MAF acts swiftly against moth catch in Mount Eden

Tuesday 20 January, 2004

MAF acts swiftly against new painted apple moth catch in Mount Eden

A lone painted apple moth was trapped in Mount Eden on 16 January 2004, General Manager of the Painted Apple Moth Programme Robert Isbister said today.

“This latest catch is disappointing, given that it is now 36 weeks since the last wild moth was trapped in Ranui.”

“But our scientific and technical experts predicted that there would be some random finds during the programme, so in light of this advice this latest trap catch is no surprise.

“MAF will be acting swiftly against this and any other new finds to maintain the steady progress towards eradication. We have intensified the trapping grid by adding an extra 64 traps around the area of this new find. We will monitor the traps twice weekly to determine whether this catch is due to a moth population having established in this area or whether it is just a vagrant moth from somewhere within the current painted apple moth zone. If we find a population in the Mt Eden area, we will then assess the most effective treatment option. We cannot rule out the possibility of aerial operations.”

Overall trap catch numbers have continued to drop significantly compared with the same time last year. During the last three months of 2002 a total of 114 moths were caught – 27 in October, 55 in November and 32 in December. The Mt Eden moth is the first trap catch since May 2003.

MAF’s scientific advisory group – a team of New Zealand specialists and international experts – will meet in February for an overall review of the painted apple moth programme and to make recommendations for the future direction of the eradication programme.

At least two years of zero trap catches are required to declare an area free of painted apple moth.

Ends

MAF acts swiftly against new painted apple moth catch in Mount Eden
Background Information
Tuesday 20 January, 2004


Where was the painted apple moth found? The wild male painted apple moth was found during a routine service check of a monitoring trap located near the railroad corridor in Mt Eden, Central Auckland.

When was it found?

The wild male painted apple moth was collected during a routine servicing of a monitoring trap on Friday 16 January 2004. The specimen was positively identified as a wild male painted apple moth on Monday 19 January 2004.
Was it a wild painted apple moth?

The painted apple moth that was trapped has been confirmed as a wild male. Sterile male moths that are released as part of a control programme are coloured with iridescent dyes to enable them to be distinguished from wild moths.

How long has it been since a wild painted apple moth was trapped?

The last wild painted apple moth was last trapped on 5 May 2003, in Ranui
Where did the moth found in Mt Eden come from?

There is no way of being certain where the moth originated. At this point we cannot confirm whether the moth is part of a population that has established in the area or if it is just a vagrant moth from somewhere within the current painted apple moth zone.

Is the new find outside the current eradication area?

The site of the new find is outside the area that is currently aerially treated for painted apple moth, it is also outside the vegetation-controlled area for the pest. The site is included within the 20km radius buffer from McLeod Park in Waitakere that constitutes the painted apple moth eradication zone. The site is also included in the monitoring trap grid for painted apple moth.

What action are you going to take?

The detection of a single painted apple moth outside the current aerial treatment zone does not necessarily mean that a population of the pest has established in the area.

The first step is to identify if there are any other painted apple moth in the area. Immediate action has been taken to increase the number of monitoring traps that are in the area.

Approximately 64 new traps are being placed within a 5km radius of the new find. These traps will be monitored twice a week and will provide a clear indication if there is a population in the area.

If another moth is trapped, a detailed ground search of properties in the area will be carried out. The team of scientists and technical advisors will then use this information to determine what if any additional eradication measures are required.

Does this new find mean the programme is failing and the moth is spreading?

More information from trap catch data and ground surveys are required to determine whether this moth comes from a population that has established outside the current painted apple moth zone or whether it is merely a vagrant moth.

Overall trap catch numbers have continued to drop significantly compared with the same time last year. During the last three months of 2002 a total of 114 moths were caught – 27 in October, 55 in November and 32 in December. The Mt Eden moth is the first wild moth trap catch since May 2003.

MAF’s scientific advisory group – a team of New Zealand specialists and international experts –uses modelling techniques to determine the likely behaviour of the painted apple moth population. Its modelling has predicted the likelihood of such finds outside the current aerial treatment zone.

Will you aerially treat Mt Eden?

So far there has only been one wild moth trapped in Mt Eden. Possible eradication regimes can only be hypothetical until MAF has determined whether this moth comes from a population that has established outside the current painted apple moth zone or whether it is merely a vagrant moth.

The scientists are looking for any evidence of a breeding population of painted apple moth in the area where the new painted apple moth was found. If a breeding population is confirmed through additional trap catches or finds of caterpillars or egg masses in the area, then aerial treatments cannot be ruled out.

Have painted apple moth been found outside the aerial treatment area before?

A single wild male moth was trapped in Newmarket between 11 & 17 November 2002. Immediate action was taken and trapping grids were intensified in the area. No more evidence of PAM activity was found and in this case no further action was necessary.

Will you be extending the vegetation-controlled area?

At this point it is not considered necessary to extend the vegetation-controlled area to include Mt Eden. However vegetation control remains an important option for limiting the spread of the population if a breeding population is confirmed or suspected.

What aerial operations are currently planned for painted apple moth?

Summer aerial operations commenced on December 1, 2003. The programme involves two different types of operations. Small, general aerial operations are carried out approximately every 21 days in five high-risk areas and targeted helicopter operations occur approximately every 10 days following the general aerial operations, in two small areas.

The current targeted helicopter operation, in Riverpark and Ranui/Swanson was scheduled to start on Tuesday 20 January but has been delayed by weather. The next general aerial operation in the five high-risk areas is scheduled for Thursday, 29 January, weather permitting.

How does this find affect the aerial treatment programme in other parts of Auckland?

The next Science and Technical Advisory Group meeting is planned for mid February to review data and make ongoing recommendations for the eradication programme. All trapping data including the new find will be reviewed as part of this process.

The criteria for continuing aerial treatments in a specific area are determined within broad guidelines on a case-by-case basis. This process takes into account painted apple moth activity over a number of generations in immediate and contributing areas.

The scientists will need to consider the relationship between the Mt Eden find and existing treatment areas before determining if the find has any impact on current operations.

Does the new find affect the countdown to declaring eradication of painted apple moth?

Confirmation of eradication of painted apple moth will occur after 24 months of no evidence of painted apple moth being collected anywhere, has elapsed.

This means that 24 months of no finds from the 16 January 2004 (or the date of any future find) will be necessary before eradication could be confirmed.

The process and criteria for ceasing aerial treatments in a specific area are a separate decision.

ENDS

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