HON­SHU WHITE AD­MI­RAL BUT­TER­FLIES

NZ Lifestyle Block - - Feature Bed & Breakfast - Hon­shu but­ter­fly ( Plan­tain moth (

THESE HAVE BEEN RE­LEASED in the Waikato re­gion to com­bat Ja­panese hon­ey­suckle, a fast-spread­ing, white-flow­ered vine. The weed has be­come a huge prob­lem in New Zealand with noth­ing to keep it in check as it grows in­cred­i­bly fast - up to 15m a year - smoth­er­ing bush and trees. It’s then very hard to kill with her­bi­cides with­out killing what­ever it is climb­ing on.

It is the cater­pil­lar stage that feeds on the weed so sci­en­tists will have to wait to see if the but­ter­flies (which don’t like mat­ing in cap­tiv­ity) build up a big enough pop­u­la­tion to be ef­fec­tive. Land­care Re­search sci­en­tist Quentin Paynter says the cater­pil­lars were vo­ra­cious and each could con­sume sev­eral leaves dur­ing the course of its de­vel­op­ment.

“At the mo­ment we are keep­ing a close eye on the ini­tial re­lease site. Be­cause we have so few but­ter­flies to play with, con­cen­trat­ing on get­ting es­tab­lish­ment at one ini­tial site may be the best op­tion. But if we start find­ing large num­bers of eggs at the first re­lease site we will cer­tainly con­sider re­leas­ing adults at a sec­ond site.”

He says they ex­pect the but­ter­flies to do well in New Zealand as the cli­mate is less ex­treme than in their na­tive Ja­pan.

The En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Au­thor­ity ap­proved the re­lease of the but­ter­fly in Au­gust 2013 af­ter re­search showed the lar­vae would not feed on other plants.

YERSINIA ENTOMOPHAGA

AGRE­SEARCH HAS MADE steps to­wards us­ing an in­sec­ti­ci­dal bac­terium to con­trol a na­tive moth wreak­ing havoc on plan­tain crops.

The rel­a­tively re­cent ap­pear­ance of Scop­ula rubraria and another sim­i­lar moth ( Epyaxa rosearia) in large num­bers in plan­tain crops has given rise to the com­monly used name ‘plan­tain moth’. Last year, farm­ers in the North Is­land re­ported up to 90% of their crops be­ing at­tacked by the moth’s lar­vae.

Plan­tain is a drought-tol­er­ant, high­pro­tein plant that is es­pe­cially im­por­tant for fat­ten­ing up sheep.

Agre­search sci­en­tist Dr Mark Hurst says lab­o­ra­tory test spray­ing with a nat­u­ral­ly­oc­cur­ring bac­terium, Yersinia entomophaga, showed it could knock back the moth lar­vae by as much as 90% in just a week.

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