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New moth find is no surprise – Forest and Bird

New moth find is no surprise – Forest and Bird.

Forest and Bird is unsurprised by the discovery of a new invasive moth in Auckland. Yesterday MAF Biosecurity Authority officials announced the discovery of the fall webworm that is native to United States, Canada and Mexico. The webworm is known to eat over 600 different plant species.

“This is likely to be the consequence of inadequate shipping container inspections. MAF’s door inspection regime for shipping containers misses 95% of insects. It is no wonder new moths keep coming into Auckland,” Forest and Bird Biosecurity Awareness Officer Geoff Keey said.

“The webworm seems to eat almost any tree that is not a conifer. While it can be controlled in orchards and gardens, it’s unlikely that it can be controlled in native forests,” he said.

“New Zealand simply cannot afford to keep having new pests entering New Zealand. Aucklanders must be wondering when the moth invasions are going to stop”, he said.

“The best way to deal with this problem is to ensure that all shipping containers are properly checked inside and out”, he said.

“It’s also vital that this new moth is eradicated,” he said.


While the fall web worm is not considered a major commercial pest, its broad host range (around 636 species world wide) combined with the difficulty of controlling insect pests in native forests, makes the web worm a potentially serious threat to native forests.

The webworm appears to eat almost any type of tree that is not a conifer. Important forest trees such as rata, pohutakawa, southern beeches, kowhai and kamahi may be at considerable risk. Native conifers such as rimu, matai, totara and kauri may be at a lower risk. However, the risks are still largely unknown as the fall webworm is unlikely to have ever come in contact with New Zealand native trees before.

The Government recently released a container review that showed that the management of biosecurity risks on shipping containers needed improvements. Standard door inspections of shipping containers can miss 95% of the insects and spiders inside. The Auditor General has also identified shipping container biosecurity as an area that needs improvement.

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