First mainland detection of fall armyworm

News release | 19-Feb-2020

The invasive moth pest fall armyworm (Spodoptera frugiperda) has been found on Australia’s mainland for the first time.

Biosecurity Queensland General Manager Plant Biosecurity and Product Integrity Mike Ashton said a suspect moth collected at Bamaga was tested by the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (DAF) and was confirmed to be fall armyworm.

“This detection follows recent confirmed detections on two Torres Strait Islands, Erub and Saibai and underlines how quickly this pest can spread,” Mr Ashton said.

“Biosecurity Queensland has proposed a response plan that is being considered by the national Consultative Committee on Emergency Plant Pests.

“Surveillance for fall armyworm will commence on the Atherton Tablelands, wet tropics, Port Douglas, Mossman and Cairns regions this week.”

Mr Ashton said fall armyworm was an invasive moth pest that feeds in large numbers on more than 350 plant species.

“Fall armyworm causes major damage to economically important cultivated grasses such as maize, rice, sorghum, sugarcane and wheat, and also to other horticultural crops and cotton,” Mr Ashton said.

“They are most active during late summer and early autumn months, but may be active year-round in tropical areas.

“Growers should have on-farm biosecurity measures in place to protect their crops from pests and diseases.”

Mr Ashton said fall armyworm larvae were light coloured with a larger darker head.

“As they develop, they become browner with white lengthwise stripes and also develop dark spots with spines,” Mr Ashton said.

“Adult moths are 32 to 40mm in length wing tip to wing tip, with a brown or grey forewing and a white hind wing.

“Male fall armyworm adults have more patterns and a distinct white spot on each of their forewings.

“The community, industry and agronomists are encouraged to report any unexpected symptoms in the field by phoning the Exotic Plant Pest Hotline on 1800 084 881.”

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Media contact: DAF Media, media@daf.qld.gov.au