The fall armyworm, which can destroy crops overnight, has been detected in Australia. Image by AP PHOTO

Environment

Exotic pest worm detected in Australia

2020-02-13 10:54:09

An exotic pest with the potential to decimate crops overnight has been detected in Australia for the first time.

Authorities last week located six fall armyworm moths on the northern Torres Strait islands of Saibai and Erub.

The pest – which is different to other types of armyworm commonly found in southern Australia – originates from the tropical and subtropical regions of the Americas.

It has spread rapidly to other parts of the world since 2016.

The larvae is known to eat more than 350 plant species including maize, cotton, rice, sorghum, sugarcane, wheat and vegetable and fruit crops.

Without control measures it can destroy crops overnight when population levels are high.

Adult moths can travel 100km in one night, meaning it can spread quickly.

The Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries is working with the Australian Government, and with industry groups and communities, to assess the distribution and threat of the pest, and develop a response strategy.

There is no suggestion it has spread yet to the mainland, however traps will be set in northern and central Queensland as a precaution.

Biosecurity Queensland says it will also work closely with traditional land owners in the region to control the movement of plant and soil between the islands and the mainland, and between Papua New Guinea and the Torres Strait Islands.