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Uraba Consolidates its Position

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Formerly known as the Forest Research Institute, Scion has been a leader in research relating to forest health for over 50 years. The Rotorua-based Crown Research Institute continues to provide science that will protect all forests from damage caused by insect pests, pathogens and weeds. The information presented below arises from these research activities.

 From Forest Health News 127, March 2003.

In December Forest Health News reported progress on the MAF campaign to eradicate the gum leaf skeletoniser (Uraba lugens) from Mount Maunganui and Auckland (FHNews 125:1). This campaign has recently suffered a setback with the discovery of caterpillars over a wide area of south Auckland. A delimitation survey by Vigil and Agriquality has extended the known range to a zone stretching from St Heliers and Howick to Manurewa, Onehunga, and Auckland Airport. In the Mangere area, heavy infestations have been found in parks and at roadsides, on eucalypt trees belonging to species such as Eucalyptus viminalis and E. nicholii , as well as on the related Lophostemon confertus. Contact with the hairy caterpillars can cause significant skin irritation, so pesticides have been applied to some infested park trees where people may be at risk.

MAF Biosecurity Authority is currently gathering information, and conducting a cost-benefit analysis of the potential impact this insect may have on eucalypt plantations, in order to determine the most appropriate course of action. In its native Australia, outbreaks of Uraba tend to be sporadic in mixed species woodlands, and it is unclear how it may behave in single-species stands in a new environment free from its natural enemies. MAF intends to explore different control options. Appropriate research is also being initiated, and HortResearch is testing blends of a potential sex pheromone to find a lure for use in the infested area. Uraba lugens feeds on a wide range of Eucalyptus species belonging to all major subgenera. Forest Research is undertaking a programme to test the susceptibilities of 11 native myrtaceous tree species, including rata, pohutukawa, manuka and kanuka. The potential impact of this pest on indigenous forest is of concern, and Forest and Bird has publicly welcomed the decision of MAF Biosecurity Authority to determine whether Uraba is likely to feed on any native trees.

Toni Withers, Forest Research


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(Scion is the trading name of the New Zealand Forest Research Institute Limited.)


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