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New Pheromone To Help Catch Exotic Pest

24 June 2002

The HortResearch team who discovered the components for the pheromone to attract the male Painted Apple Moth had just succeeded in identifying the pheromone of the gum leaf skeletoniser (Urama lugens).

“Some fine-tuning of the blend will be required, but the results support the use of the pheromone to support MAF’s eradication programme against the insect this spring”, according to the team’s leader Max Suckling.

The more than 20,000 ha of plantation Eucalyps and a large number of trees in urban forests and parks could well be at risk from this voracious little moth. The caterpillars partly or completely skeletonise leaves on many eucalypt species and can slow tree growth or kill young trees.

Dr Suckling reports that male gum leaf skeletoniser moths have been caught to synthetic pheromone lures being operated by researchers at the University of Queensland and they are operating traps based on lures identified in New Zealand. HortResearch chemist Dr Simon Fielder was responsible for synthesising the compounds, which are not available commercially.

The gum leaf skeletoniser was first discovered at a golf course in Tauranga in 1997 and later in a separate find in Auckland in late 2001. Insects were obtained from the Auckland find through co- operation from Dr John Bain at Forest Research, and the pheromone extracted and identified.

Dr Suckling, who received an International Science and Technology Award from the Royal Society of New Zealand to support this work says that identification of pheromones of Australian moths has the potential to add significantly to the improvement of our biosecurity in forestry, agriculture and horticulture. “Sex pheromones are the basis of the most cost-effective approach to insect monitoring, because the insects come to us”, Dr Suckling said.

The project was funded by the MAF Biosecurity Authority.


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