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Source: Ministry for Primary Industries

Biosecurity New Zealand is working with primary sector and Te Tiriti partners after a single confirmed egg mass belonging to the moth pest the fall armyworm was found in Tauranga.

The moth is found around the world and is present in the Americas, Africa and Asia, and more recently has been found in Papua New Guinea and parts of Australia.

Biosecurity New Zealand deputy director-general Stuart Anderson said the fall armyworm was a hitchhiker pest. A risk analysis by Biosecurity New Zealand last year showed it was likely to arrive as an adult moth from Australia via strong winds within the next 5 years.

Pest Risk Assessment: Spodoptera frugiperda (Fall armyworm) [PDF, 1.8 MB]

“Our risk analysis found it would struggle to establish here as areas with preferred hosts do not necessarily have the correct climate to suit fall armyworm. It is a tropical species that thrives in very warm climates.

“If it was required, the moth can be treated with several products, many of which are already used in New Zealand for other kinds of pests.

“This moth has been on our radar for some time, and we have worked closely with our primary sector partners on keeping it out through things like importing requirements on risk goods, as well as encouraging growers to remain vigilant for signs of the pest.”

Mr Anderson said the analysis last year showed the pest was unlikely to establish, however, Biosecurity New Zealand and its industry partners were taking a cautious approach.

“We’re committed to working with primary sector and Te Tiriti partners to decide next steps. Its important people report any findings to us and call our exotic pests and diseases line on 0800 80 99 66 or report online:
Exotic Pest and Disease Online Notification

Mr Anderson said the eggs were found on a gypsy moth trap in Tauranga and then tested, before being destroyed. There is no evidence of an established population.

“We do have other types of armyworm moth in New Zealand, but this particular species, which thrives in very warm climates, can pose a threat to arable crops and other horticultural species if it becomes a large population.”

“We’ll be investigating further with our sector and Te Tiriti partners and will provide updates when we have more information,” he said.