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Fall armyworm in Waikato

  • Fall armyworm caterpillars have been identified on sweet corn and maize volunteers at two properties on the outskirts of Hamilton.
  • Sweet corn and maize growers across the North Island are being urged to keep a close eye out for caterpillars on volunteer maize and corn plants.
  • Any suspicious finds can be reported via MPI’s online report form, via the app or by calling Biosecurity New Zealand’s Pest and Disease hotline (0800 80 99 66).

Biosecurity New Zealand and primary sector partners are asking maize and corn growers to keep a close eye out for fall armyworm (FAW), and report any signs of caterpillars on volunteer maize and corn plants, after findings of caterpillars on two properties on the outskirts of Hamilton.

FAW thrives in very warm climates and it is thought it is unlikely to successfully hibernate in colder climates such as New Zealand, other than in the far North (fall armyworm has not been found there yet). However, it’s important for growers to check their sweet corn and maize crops for the pest (see identification sheet below).

If you find suspicious caterpillars, please report to MPI using their online report form if possible. Alternatively, you can report via (download the app) or call Biosecurity New Zealand’s Pest and Disease hotline (0800 80 99 66).

Take good photos…
To make it easier for experts to identify whether or not caterpillars are FAW, take a clear dorsal (top down) image of the caterpillar. If possible, photograph caterpillars that are at least 2 centimetres long, so the diagnostic features are clear. When you use the online report form identify yourself as a member of the public and select the Category ‘plants, spiders, or insects’. The online notification tool will allow you to upload images directly.

Last month, a single confirmed egg mass belonging to the moth was found in Tauranga. There has been a further find of caterpillars on corn and maize regrowth at two properties, on the outskirts of Hamilton, in the past fortnight.

This moth has been on our radar for some time, as it has been spreading around the world. It is present in the Americas, Africa and Asia, and is established in parts of Australia. The pest is thought to have arrived from Australia via strong winds, which was predicted by a risk analysis last year.

Fall armyworm adults are nocturnal and most active during warm, humid evenings. Caterpillars on maize and corn crops or volunteer maize and corn in other crops will be the most likely easily identifiable sign of this pest.

To help us understand the spread of fall armyworm and consider the best options, please inspect your maize and corn crops or volunteers for any evidence of mature caterpillars of the fall armyworm.

More information below.