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Australian Pest Takes A Knock

24 April 2002

Painted apple moth numbers are falling dramatically as the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry’s targeted aerial spraying programme takes effect in west Auckland.

Over the last three months, totals from the male moth trap catches, which MAF compiles weekly, have shown a significant and constant drop in the male moth count - down from a peak of almost 900 moths before aerial spraying to less than 200 in recent weeks. Last week’s catch was just 143 moths.

MAF has over 900 traps baited with live female moths to track and catch males and monitor their movements in what is believed to be one of the largest trapping grids ever established for an operation of this kind.

MAF’s Technical Advisory Group of over 20 scientists also reports that it has a better handle on where the moth is and how far it can fly.

Recent data shows that over 98 per cent of all male moths ever found are only 1.5 kilometres from the current spray zone.

This means the spread of the pest, although now in a wider area, is contained and is in a defined area … mainly centred around west Auckland suburbs inland from the waterways of Henderson Creek, Whau River and the riparian margins of the Avondale Peninsula, Pt Chevalier and Waterview.

MAF has on-going trials to track the flight and habits of the moth including a mark and release programme where sterile male moths, marked with a special dye, are released in the infested area and trapped again. The trials prove the long flights of the pest which have been caught over four kilometres away from the original release site. The female of the species does not fly.

The painted apple moth, a native of Australia, is a sporadic pest so very little research or data has been gathered to date and this hampered MAF’s original eradication plans.

The information being gathered now will be an invaluable resource for planning future programmes against this and other pests.


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