Agriculture Minister Mark Furner

February 12, 2020

An exotic pest moth which could decimate Australian agriculture has been found in the Torres Strait.

Agriculture Minister Mark Furner said the Fall Armyworm (Spodoptera frugiperda) could cause major damage to economically important crops such as maize, rice, sorghum, sugarcane, wheat and cotton.

“Biosecurity Queensland is working with other Australian governments and industry groups to manage the threat posed by Fall Armyworm and respond appropriately,” Mr Furner said.

Biosecurity Queensland spokesman Mike Ashton said the pest had been found on Erub and Saibai islands.

“The Northern Australia Quarantine Strategy has advised Biosecurity Queensland that seven specimens of the pest were found in late January in traps set on the islands,” Mr Ashton said.

He said Fall Armyworm larvae were most active during late summer and early autumn months, but may be active year-round in tropical areas.

“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 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.

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

The pest is native to tropical and sub-tropical parts of the Americas.

Mr Ashton said Fall Armyworm was first detected outside its native range in early 2016 and has since spread to Africa, the Indian subcontinent, China and south-east Asia.

“The pest is a strong flier and is believed to have covered most of its geographical range through natural dispersal but can also be spread through the movement of infested plant material,” he said.

“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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