Adult fall armyworm moth which has been detected in Far North Queensland. Pic: SUPPLIED BIOSECURITY QUEENSLAND
Adult fall armyworm moth which has been detected in Far North Queensland. Pic: SUPPLIED BIOSECURITY QUEENSLAND

Growers on alert as moth pest detected in Australia

GROWERS are being urged to be on alert as the invasive moth pest fall armyworm (Spodoptera frugiperda) has arrived in Australia.

This comes after several detections have been made in far north Queensland, including South Johnstone, Tolga and Lakeland.

GRDC managing director Dr Steve Jefferies said all growers were urged to keep an eye on their crops for signs of fall armyworm incursions.

“Fall armyworm is a highly destructive pest, the larvae are known to feed on more than 350 plant species and they’ve caused significant economic losses overseas,” he said.

The adult moths are highly mobile and quite capable of travelling large distances quickly.

Their migration rate is remarkably fast, estimated at almost 500 kilometres per generation.

“This new fall armyworm incursion has the potential to severely damage grain crops and hit grower profitability,” Dr Jefferies said.

Dr Jefferies said the main control measure available to Australian growers was insecticides.

South Burnett Regional Council’s community general manager Peter O’May said there had been no detections in the South Burnett, despite an increase in moths across the region.

“The main impact of fall armyworm is crop damage and loss,” he said.

“Recent detections in the Torres Strait and Bamaga, with no detections in the South Burnett to date.”

One of the lawn armyworm caterpillars that have invaded North Queensland in recent weeks. Photo Chris Ison
One of the lawn armyworm caterpillars that have invaded North Queensland in recent weeks. Photo Chris Ison

Biosecurity Queensland chief biosecurity officer Malcolm Letts said a surveillance program for fall armyworms would 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,” he said.

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

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

Fall armyworm larvae are 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 patters and a distinct white spot on each of their forewings.

If anyone suspects they have fall armyworm on their crop they need to contact DAF on 13 25 23.