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Pheromones Prove Gorse Moths Are Here

Pheromones Prove Gorse Moths (The Good Guys) Are Here

Using biological controls is one of the environmentally safer ways of curbing the widespread and aggressive weeds that cost New Zealand so much.

One of these controls is the gorse soft shoot moth (Agonopterix ulicetella Stainton), released by Landcare Research in mid-Canterbury in 1997. The moth caterpillars carry out the biocontrol by eating gorse shoots. It has already proved its worth as a successful biocontrol agent in Hawaii. But until recently there was no practical means of detecting if the moth had established here.

HortResearch insect scientist Max Suckling and his team undertook to identify a sex attractant to use in insect pheromone sticky traps. First time round they caught 10 moths. "By getting the moths to come to us we were able to prove that they had successfully established," Dr Suckling said.

HortResearch designed the lures and contacted a Hungarian researcher to make a wide range of possible attractants. These were sent to Hawaii where USDA researchers tested them, and the 10 most successful lures were then tested in Canterbury.

The Landcare Research gorse biocontrol programme is co-operative between most regional councils, several forestry companies and DOC.

Landcare's Hugh Gourlay said, "We now plan to deploy pheromone traps at 50 sites throughout New Zealand where we have released the gorse soft shoot moth, but where we have been unable to tell if it has established."

This work is being presented at the 53rd New Zealand Plant Protection Conference in Christchurch August 8 - 10. The paper is also available at http://www.hortnet.cri.nz\publications\nzpps

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