Posted on behalf of the Horehound Biocontrol Group
Kia ora koutou,
We are pleased to give you a cautiously optimistic update in time for the festive season: The new shipment of horehound plume moth has made its first public appearance.
Plume moth – Take 2
A lot has happened in the year since the previous update. We were then considering whether we should try to reintroduce the plume moth from Australia. The catchment groups who co-funded the project agreed this was the way to go, and MPI agreed as well. Our collaborators in Australia were incredibly helpful and accommodating, and did the ground work to check for sites and for the right timing. In early October Gavin travelled to Australia and collected advanced-stage larvae. All went according to plan. That is, until Gavin was stopped at the bridge as he was boarding the flight back, and got told that the chilly bin with insects was removed from the plane. Long story short, Gavin had to stay behind and find another solution to ship the insects to NZ the next day. It took the precious cargo another two days to make it to NZ, and we were nervous that what we were going to find inside the chilly bin would be a mush of dead larvae. We were hugely relieved to find the larvae mostly still alive, and a few dozens have managed to complete their life cycle and make it to adult moths.
Having gone through one generation under containment conditions and having passed the biosecurity requirements, the moths were granted permission to be taken out of containment on Wednesday, 13 December 2023. This was a cause for celebration!
Bulking up numbers and releases planned for the New Year
We made one release on Friday 15 December in North Canterbury. This is the only release this side of Christmas. The plan from here is to start bulking up the numbers of moths in preparation for releases in the new year. The strategy for releases will be largely dictated by the numbers we will manage to rear. The sure thing is that the priority areas for making these releases are those Catchment Groups and entities who have contributed co-funding for this project. We will work with representatives of these Groups to select sites and decide about the optimal timing for releasing. I know many of you will be putting your hand up to get a release. I apologise in advance that only a small number of you will get releases at this stage. It will be important to select optimal sites that will maximise the chances of the moth to thrive, so that we can start redistributing widely within 2-3 years from well-established nursery sites.
Best wishes for the holidays. We hope you get a break and time to spend with family and loved ones.
Hei konā mai,
Gavin & Ronny
You can find previous updates by checking the Horehound BioControl page here.