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Painted apple moth report released

From Biosecurity Issue 29, August 2001.

MAF has been praised for its quick response to the recommendations in a review of its painted apple moth (PAM) control programme.

In May 2001 Dr Sandy Liebhold, an entomologist with the USDA Forest Service in West Virginia and Dr Bruce Simpson, a New Zealand-based biosecurity consultant, reviewed MAF’s approach to the painted apple moth (Teia anartoides) incursion.

The forest industry and other stakeholders have applauded MAF’s quick response to the recommendations in the review report. The Forest Owners Association, in a statement to the press on 29 June, “commended the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry for its constructive response to the independent report on its handling of the painted apple moth incursion”.

Eradication strategy ‘appropriate’

MAF’s Acting Director-General Larry Fergusson said the report had forestry industry concerns that not enough was being done technically and managerially to deal with the painted apple moth (PAM). The review found, however, that the ‘overall PAM eradication strategy appears to have been appropriate’ and prospects for eradicating the insect still appear good.

Painted apple moth was discovered in Auckland in 1999, firstly in Glendene and then in Mt Wellington. The report concluded that the pest could still be eradicated in the West Auckland suburbs of Glendene, Avondale, Glen Eden, Kelston and Titirangi, having apparently been eliminated from Mt Wellington. The reviewers noted that painted apple moth may not be as serious a threat to New Zealand as some other exotic pests, as females cannot fly and the moth therefore has limited potential for natural spread.

Many recommendations already implemented

Many of the actions recommended by the reviewers had been implemented by MAF before it received the report, and further initiatives are being investigated. MAF will continue to work closely with the west Auckland communities, the forest industry and other interested groups throughout the response process.

Recommended ways to improve MAF’s response include:

  • establishing an additional painted apple moth colony primarily to supply female moths for the trapping programme and aid the development of a pheromone; 
  • strengthening the existing controls on movement of risk material from properties in infested areas; 
  • developing a plan allowing for the use of targeted aerial spraying as an option for future control; 
  • developing a communication strategy to ensure all those involved in the control programme are consulted; and 
  • improving MAF’s coordination of the programme.

Widespread aerial spraying unlikely

The most sensitive recommendation, as far as residents of West Auckland suburbs are concerned, will be the proposal to develop a plan for the use of targeted aerial spraying as an option for future control. The Auckland and Waitakere City Councils have been advised by MAF that any aerial spraying, should it be necessary, will likely involve tactical use of helicopters rather than the widespread aerial application seen during the white spotted tussock moth eradication programme in 1997. The review report recommends the application of Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) for an aerial spray programme, as it has virtually no impact on aquatic invertebrates or fish. Furthermore, Bt has a history of success – it was used in the eradication of gypsy moth in North America and the white spotted tussock moth in New Zealand in 1997.

The manager of the PAM response, Dr Ruth Frampton, is confident that the painted apple moth can still be eradicated from Auckland and has already implemented many of the recommendations in the report.

Bill Dyck

Painted apple moth response under scrutiny

From Biosecurity Issue 28, June 2001.

An independent review of MAF’s painted apple moth response was conducted in May. The review was commissioned in response to concerns, mainly from the forest industry, about the process adopted to manage the incursion.

Painted apple moth (Teia anartoides) was first detected in Auckland and reported to MAF in May 1999. A Technical Advisory Group (TAG) was established to help MAF manage the response, and steps were put in place to control the pest.

The response to date has included surveys, trapping, host removal and spray treatments, as well as moth rearing and pheromone development and moth rearing programmes. By March 2001, the results of caged-female trapping potentially closed the gap between the Glendene/Kelston and Titirangi finds. In contrast, the results of trapping and surveys provide good evidence that the Mt Wellington population is well under control.

Dr Andrew (Sandy) Liebhold, a research entomologist with the USDA Forest Service in the United States, was the technical expert on the review. He worked closely with New Zealander Bruce Simpson, Director of Biosecurity Ltd, who was contracted as the administration and management expert.

Sandy is an expert in lymantriid biology and has particular experience with the ecology and spread of gypsy moth in North America. He has been on the Technical Committee of the Gypsy Moth National Slow the Spread Project since 1992 and is very familiar with forestry pest incursions. Bruce has had considerable management experience, and has conducted a number of reviews in the animal and meat assurance area.

The review team spent a week in early May focusing on technical matters, after which Bruce concentrated on management aspects of the response. While conducting the review, the team interviewed as many parties involved in the response as possible. They toured the infestation zones in Auckland and visited HortResearch’s painted apple moth rearing facility at the Mt Albert Research Centre.

The outcome of the review will be reported in the next issue of Biosecurity.

Bill Dyck



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