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More biocontrol agents in the pipeline

Just before lockdown in early 2020, Zane McGrath of Manaaki Whenua travelled to Uruguay to collect specimens of Anastrepha australis (the moth plant pod fly), a prospective biocontrol agent for the invasive moth plant Araujia hortorum (also known as Araujia sericifera).
[Freudeita cupripennis], the moth plant beetle.

[Freudeita cupripennis], the moth plant beetle.

Native to South America, moth plant is a serious pest plant in New Zealand. Producing up to 1,000 windborne seeds per seed pod, it is particularly invasive in northern New Zealand. The vines of moth plant smother shrubs and small trees, shading out small native plants and seedlings. Anastrepha australis larvae feed on immature seeds within the plant’s seed pod, typically leaving no viable mature seeds to germinate.

Zane worked with Soledad Jorge Delgado at Universidad de la República, Uruguay, and Soledad Villamil at Universidad Nacional del Sol, Argentina. With all the paperwork in place, including a collection permit approved by the Uruguayan government and an import permit from MPI, in February 2020 around 80 pupae were brought back to Manaaki Whenua’s Beever Plant Pathogen Containment Facility at Tamaki, Auckland, for careful assessment.

Ahead of this work, in December 2019 another biocontrol agent for moth plant was fully approved and released at sites in the Bay of Plenty and Northland. One hundred and fifty adult moth plant beetles (Freudeita cupripennis) were released at Matapihi, near Tauranga. Shane Hona (Bay of Plenty Regional Council) and Hayden Henry, a representative of Ngāi Tukairangi Resource Management Authority, released the beetles onto a moth plant infestation smothering harakeke/New Zealand flax (Phormium tenax). The second release, also of 150 adult beetles, took place in the Awanui area near the Sweetwater Lakes in Northland, overseen by Jenny Dymock (Northland Regional Council). This project was funded by the National Biocontrol Collective.

Bay of Plenty Regional Council release the moth plant beetle in a world first.

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