More armyworm detections in Far North Queensland

News release | 03-Mar-2020

More detections of the invasive moth pest fall armyworm (Spodoptera frugiperda) have been made in Far North Queensland.

Biosecurity Queensland Chief Biosecurity Officer Malcolm Letts said suspect moths collected at South Johnstone, Tolga and Lakeland were confirmed by Department of Agriculture and Fisheries’ (DAF) entomologists to be fall armyworm.

“These latest detections follow recent confirmed detections on two Torres Strait Islands, at Bamaga and in the north-west Gulf country and is further evidence of the pest’s ability to spread quickly,” Mr Letts said.

“A surveillance program for fall armyworm, which commenced on the Atherton Tablelands, Innisfail, Port Douglas, Mossman, Lakeland and Cairns regions last week, will be expanded as more traps become available.

“It is important we continue to monitor and track the spread of this pest in Queensland, so we can alert growers when they may expect to start seeing some damage to crops.”

Mr Letts said the national technical committee that oversees the management of plant pest and disease incursions had determined that it is not technically feasible to eradicate this pest from Australia.

“Managing of the impacts of fall armyworm is the priority for the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries,” Mr Letts said.

“The Department recognises that much work is needed to prepare for and minimise the potential impacts of fall armyworm.

“That work has already commenced with an industry roundtable that was held on Thursday 27 February 2020 and the Department will continue work with industry to spread the word about the risk of this pest and also provide advice on control strategies that are available to them.”

Mr Letts 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 Letts 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 Letts 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 Letts 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 strongly encouraged to photograph and report suspect sightings to Biosecurity Queensland on 13 25 23 or to their local ranger, biosecurity officer or environmental health worker.”

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