Mortein caught providing advice on how to kill endangered bogong moths

·Environment Editor
·4-min read

The makers of Mortein insect spray have hurriedly removed information on their website that explained how to kill an endangered Australian species.

Once observed in their billions, bogong moths are now scarce after suffering catastrophic declines in 2017 and 2018 which saw their numbers plummet by an estimated 99.5 per cent.

Two Mortein insect killing products were suggested as a way to “tackle these furry flying critters” on the company’s FAQ page, above innocuous details about how to download the Louis the Fly advertising jingle.

Control advice was provided despite bogong moths being listed on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List in December.

Bogong moths were once numerous, but they are now listed on the IUCN Red List of threatened species. Source: Sarah Rees
Bogong moths were once numerous, but they are now listed on the IUCN Red List of threatened species. Source: Sarah Rees

Mortein pulls down bogong moth kill information after complaints

While information was still on Mortein’s website at 3am on Wednesday, by 10am the company had erased all traces of the advice.

The move followed questions sent by Yahoo News Australia to their UK parent company Reckitt Global overnight, and a letter of concern sent by Zoos Victoria requesting Mortein "remove the advice".

A spokesperson from Mortein described the bogong moth control information as "old content" on their website.

"This species has been plentiful in Australia, with families asking for advice on how to control bogong moths in their homes," the company said in a statement.

"Our website has now been updated and the reference to the bogong moth removed."

Advice on killing bogong moths was listed on Mortein's website until this morning. Source: Reckitt
Advice on killing bogong moths was listed on Mortein's website until this morning. Source: Reckitt

Conservationists question endangered species kill advice

Criticism of Mortein's bogong moth advice has been widespread, particularly on social media.

"How you justify encouraging people to kill an endangered native species?" one person wrote on Twitter.

Prominent environmental groups also expressed concern, with the Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) describing the promotion of killing endangered species as "irresponsible".

Zoos Victoria reproductive biologist Dr Marissa Parrott also weighed in, saying it was sad some people previously considered bogong moths a "pest species" when they are actually "harmless, gentle animals".

How Mortein was caught providing bogong moth kill advice

Campaigners were first alerted to the issue after PhD student Thomas Mesaglio shared screenshots of Mortein’s website on Twitter.

“I'm hoping they post a FAQ soon on how to get rid of those pesky koalas that keep coming into my house,” he joked.

Speaking with Yahoo News Australia this morning, Mr Mesaglio said he found it “surprising” that bogong moths had been singled out by the company for destruction.

“It just doesn't seem like a concern that would even exist,” he said.

“That was probably the strangest part of it to me; they were providing such extremely specific advice for a seemingly non-existent issue.”

'Every moth is precious', expert warns

Zoos Victoria manages a monitoring program which examines how the demise of the bogong moth has affected the critically endangered mountain pygmy-possum, which rely on them as a primary food source.

Each year the moths migrate south up to a thousand kilometres and settle in alpine areas in NSW and Victoria, a feat Dr Parrott describes as "mighty".

Victoria's mountain pygmy possum numbers less than 2000 individuals in the wild. Source: AAP
Victoria's mountain pygmy possum numbers less than 2000 individuals in the wild. Source: AAP

Once believed to number four billion individuals, some people recall their thick mass blocking out the moon, Dr Parrott said.

While the "precise impact" of agricultural poisons and home-use insecticides is not well understood, she notes poison is believed to be a key threat to their survival.

"There are anecdotal reports of millions of moths being poisoned and swept or vacuumed up around businesses in the past," she said.

"Now, every moth is precious.

"We must protect our remaining magnificent moths together so that we can once again experience their Australian great migration, protect the many species that rely on them, and restore balance to the ecosystem."

Insects disappearing across the globe

Bogong moths have been prioritised for assessment by the Threatened Species Scientific Committee, however they are not currently listed by the Federal Government.

ACF national nature campaigner Jess Abrahams said many Australians were left "shocked" by the IUCN listing last year.

“The bogong moth’s population plunge – and its cascading impact on other species – should concern everyone, as we all depend on the interconnected web of nature, which gives us drinkable water, pollinated crops and clean air," he said.

Following the IUCN listing, environmentalist Sarah Rees specifically urged consumers to put down their Mortein and Raid, and noted insects around the world are disappearing from the landscape.

“I think the idea that you go outside and the garden is silent is deeply concerning for everyone,” she said.

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