Another exotic pest has breached Australia's leaky defences

Chris McLennan
By Chris McLennan
April 13 2022 - 5:00am
UNWANTED ARRIVAL: Another exotic pest has touched down in Australia, the mango shoot looper threatens the rich mango harvest in the north. Picture: Qld government.

Another exotic pest has breached Australia's biosecurity defences.

A hungry moth called the mango shoot looper was first detected on the Atherton Tablelands in north Queensland in September 2021.

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Now it has been found in Darwin.

Despite the pandemic's travel bans, Australia has had a bad couple of years on the biosecurity front.

Aside from the regular incursions of COVID-19, fall armyworm has spread right throughout Australia, dog disease ehrlichiosis is well established and now endemic plus most recently Japanese encephalitis is well entrenched in four states.

This latest invasive pest from Asia poses a threat to the Northern Territory's rich mango industry and plantations in Queensland.

Producing approximately 40,000 tonnes of mangoes each year, NT farmers contribute more than 52 per cent of the combined national crop valued between $100-$150 million.

This moth has also been found investing lychee crops in Queensland.

Severe infestations can cause 80-100 per cent leaf and flower damage on affected trees and significant crop losses due to damage to flowers and immature fruit.

Lychee, rambutan, logan, cashew and pistachio crops are also under threat.

In north Queensland, in the absence of effective chemical control the pest has been observed causing significant damage on mango plants, which includes totally stripping back flowers and destroying young fruit.

Government experts say other fruit trees considered potential hosts including rambutan, logan, cashew and pistachio.

They say this latest pest is a "threat to the commercial mango industry, as well as backyard growers and hobbyists".

Growers, nurseries and travellers are urged to be on the lookout for signs of this exotic pest to help limit its spread.

The adult moths can fly in localised areas from tree to tree and are attracted to lights on caravans and vehicles. Their spread may be enhanced by strong winds.

Female moths are pinkish in colour and the males are very pale brown or pinkish fawn. Males and females have three rows of brown patterns on the wings, the last two having dark brown spots interspersed along the length. Their wingspan is about 20mm across.

Anyone who suspects they may have found an infestation must report it to 1800 084 881.

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Chris McLennan

Chris McLennan

National Rural Property Writer

ACM national rural property writer based in Bacchus Marsh, Victoria. Career journalist. Multi award winner.

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