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Wood boring insects pose major threat

09 August 2004

Media release - International Conference on Forest Biosecurity in Hanmer

Wood boring insects pose major threat

One of the many highlights of the International Forest Biosecurity and Insect Pest Ecology Conference being held in Hanmer Springs from today will be a presentation by leading American scientist, Dr. Robert Haack who will focus on the gloomy implications of the recent invasions of North America by forest pests.

As international trade expands across the globe there is a serious increase in interceptions and, inevitably, some establishments of exotic forest pests. Particularly wood boring insects are a great threat because they travel well, sheltered in wooden packaging materials such as dunnage and pallets, but other pests such as defoliators also pose threats. Once such insects become established in a new region they often have massive detrimental effects on the new ecosystems, which lack most of the natural enemies that kept them in check in their native range.

Previous examples of forest insect and disease invasions can be seen around the globe. In North America, two well-known cases are chestnut blight and gypsy moth. Chestnut blight (caused by a fungal pathogen from Asia) was first detected in New York in 1904, and subsequently, has killed virtually all large chestnut trees in the eastern United States with detrimental flow-on effects throughout the entire forest ecosystem. The gypsy moth, a species native to Europe and Asia, was accidentally introduced to New England around 1869. Since then, this defoliator of oaks and other species has spread over a large area and regularly explodes in destructive epidemics. A great deal of effort over a long period of time has been put into controlling this pest.

As a result of its impact on North American forests, the gypsy moth has become one of the greatest forest biosecurity concerns around the world. The finding of a live gypsy moth in a surveillance trap in New Zealand (Hamilton) in March last year set off alarm bells. Such an incursion is almost inevitable because viable gypsy moth eggs are frequently intercepted on our border, especially in used car imports from Japan.

The conference in Hanmer Springs will continue until Friday afternoon.


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