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Painted Apple Moth sex pheromone identified

Media Release 8 November 2001

Painted Apple Moth sex pheromone identified

A more cost-effective means of trapping the Australian Painted Apple moth, another unwelcome import, is now well on the way, thanks to the efforts of the HortResearch Biosecurity team.

The sex pheromone components for the moth have been identified by the team after a worldwide search for the obscure compounds produced a sample from a Canadian researcher. Successful wind tunnel flights have confirmed the potency of the new blend. Other moth pheromone components needed for the research have been supplied by Japanese and US researchers.

Max Suckling, HortResearch’s Portfolio Manager for Biosecurity, was optimistic that synthetic lures would soon replace the current traps based on virgin female moths. Dr Ruth Frampton, MAF’s Director Forest Biosecurity welcomes HortResearch’s progress. She said, “The availability of a synthetic lure will greatly enhance present monitoring systems.”

“We are now awaiting further supplies of the synthetic compounds to conduct field tests of the blend”, Dr Suckling said. “These potent molecules are relatively obscure and very few research groups have worked with them.

“The investment by MAF Biosecurity Authority in our local capability has paid off, although we did not expect the pheromone components to be so technically challenging or difficult to synthesise”, he said. The other moth pheromone identified by Dr Suckling’s team this year was that of the guava moth, another recent arrival from Australia.

“Identifying the guava moth pheromone took us only three months - a most satisfactory result”, he said. This was in part due to the lack of problems with insect rearing, and the simpler pheromone blend in the guava moth.

It has been estimated that the painted apple moth could do at least $48 million worth of damage over 20 years to the New Zealand forestry, horticulture and conservation sectors. Although the female moth does not fly, the caterpillar feeds on many different plants including apple, pear, cherry and apricots, roses, pine trees, eucalyptus, willows, acacia and kowhai.

In a related development, HortResearch chemist Dr Simon Fielder reported successful synthesis of another painted apple moth pheromone compound, after a seven-step laboratory synthesis. “This synthesis will now enable us to produce large enough quantities of the pheromone for extended trapping”, Dr Suckling said.

Words 363 For further information please contact: Dr Max Suckling, HortResearch Lincoln, Mobile: 021- 2845839Email: msuckling@hortresearch.co.nz

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