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MAF Seeks Public Assistance in Moth Search

4 October 1999

MAF Seeks Public Assistance in Moth Search

The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry is carrying out a survey as a result of the discovery of painted apple moth caterpillars on a residential property in the Auckland suburb of Panmure.

The caterpillars were reported to MAF by a resident early last week. MAF immediately initiated a delimiting survey to determine the extent of spread within a 300 metre radius, which extends into the suburb of Mt Wellington. Large numbers of egg masses and caterpillars were found on another residential property on the edge of the survey zone, bordering an industrial area. The 300m survey was completed over the weekend, with a third find of an egg mass and several larvae on a property neighbouring the second site. All three sites have been treated.

On Friday, the species was positively identified by a MAF National Plant Pest Reference Laboratory entomologist as Teia anartoides, commonly known as painted apple moth. This is a different pest from the white spotted tussock moth which sparked the Operation Ever Green eradication programme in Auckland in 1996.

The site of the new find is approximately 15 kilometres from Glendene, where painted apple moth eggs, caterpillars, pupae, and adults were found on several properties in May this year. In Glendene, the insect was confined to properties within one kilometre of the site of the original find. Surveying and treatment have been continuing in that area.

It is not known how the insect came to be in the area, nor if it is connected in anyway to the Glendene infestation. The Panmure/Mt Wellington survey zone is expected to be extended this week.

A team of technical experts and local body representatives will be brought together to discuss further options for controlling the pest.

Trials are also underway to try to develop a chemical pheromone (hormone sex attractant) to enable trapping to be carried out. However, the scientific nature of this work means that it may not be available for some time.

The painted apple moth is a native of parts of Australia (in South Queensland through to Victoria and the ACT, the south east of South Australia, and Tasmania) where it usually causes only minor problems. However, it does from time to time become a more serious problem for pines and acacias.

The moth itself looks like many others and can only be identified under a microscope, but the caterpillar is quite distinctive. It is large (up to 2 to 3 centimetres long, although they can be smaller ), fat, and very hairy. It is covered from tip to tip with long gray hairs, and four distinct tufts, like tiny shaving brushes. It is grey and yellowy-orange, but its hairiness tends to make it appear quite muted in colour. The hairiness is a key identifying feature - anything without profuse hair all over it is not the painted apple moth caterpillar.

MAF is asking for assistance from members of the public. Anyone who thinks they have a likely candidate should call MAF’s National Plant Pest Reference Laboratory at Lynfield on 0800-809 966 (not the main number listed in the phonebook).

ENDS

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