Exotic pest worm detected in Australia

Christine Flatley

WHAT IS THE FALL ARMYWORM?

* This exotic pest is a big brown moth, with a striped caterpillar larval stage

* It's a different type of armyworm to those commonly found in southern Australia

WHERE IS IT FROM?

* It originated from tropical and subtropical parts of the Americas

* Since 2016 it has rapidly spread to other parts of the world

IS IT FOUND IN AUSTRALIA?

* It was detected last week on the northern Torres Strait islands of Saibai and Erub

* This is the first time it's been found anywhere in Australia

WHY IS IT A PROBLEM?

* Larvae can decimate crops overnight

* They eat more than 350 plant species including wheat, sorghum, cotton, maize, fruit and vegetables

* The R strain found in the Torres Strait prefers rice, millet and pasture grasses, but will still eat other crops

* Adult moths can fly up to 100km each night

WHAT IS BEING DONE?

* Authorities are trying to assess how far it has spread

* Traps will be set up in northern and central Queensland

* These traps will be baited with pheromones to lure male moths

* Authorities will also ramp up monitoring on the illegal importation or movement of infested plant material

* Anyone should report signs of the pest to Biosecurity Queensland on 13 25 23