Invasive Species Alert: “Dangerous” Moth Species From Asia Found On Cargo Ship In Louisiana Port”

I wouldn’t use the word “dangerous” for the discovery of Asian gypsy moths on a freighter in a Louisiana port. They are destructive, but no threat to life and limb

The use of the word “dangerous” is deliberate and signifies a problem with modern journalism I seek to avoid. So much of journalism is on the internet and so much of the internet depends on clicks. We all have to be careful about words deliberately chosen to cause the reader to click and click again.

The very destructive Asian gypsy moth. Moths and butterflies are very similar. Butterflies tend to be colorful and eat during the day, moths are usually drab and feed at night.

Nevertheless, invasive species are an international problem. There is no minimizing the potential for destruction some species pose. According to the US Department of Agriculture:

Asian gypsy moths (AGM, including Lymantria dispar asiatica, Lymantria dispar japonica, Lymantria albescens, Lymantria umbrosa, and Lymantria post¬alba) are exotic pests not known to occur in the United States. If they would become established here, they could cause serious, widespread damage to our country’s landscape and natural resources. AGMs are similar to the European gypsy moth found in the northeastern United States,but have a much broader host range.”

” Each female moth can lay hundreds of eggs that, in turn, yield hundreds of voracious caterpillars that may feed on more than 500 tree and shrub species. Large AGM infestations can completely defoliate trees. This defoliation can severely weaken trees and shrubs, making them more susceptible to disease.”

” Repeated defoliation can lead to the death of large sections of forests, orchards and landscaping. AGM females are also active fliers. Their ability to fly long distances makes it probable that AGMs could quickly spread throughout the United States.”

Asian Gypsy moths begin their lives in an egg sac like this one laid by another type of gypsy moth. Photo

US Customs and Border Protection made the discovery in late September. Authorities were on the alert because the pests are active at this time of year. A search found four egg masses on a freighter that had taken on cargo in an area of China where the moths are common. The discovery meant the ship had to head out to sea for cleaning and disinfecting before being cleared for off loading.

One measure of the scope of the problem was provided by Customs and Border Protection (CBP}

“During a typical day last year, CBP agriculture specialists across the nation intercepted 264 pests at U.S. ports of entry and 2,548 materials for quarantine: plant, meat, animal byproduct, and soil.”

The eggs hatch into voracious caterpillars that are very estructive. Photo Clemson University

The problem of pests and invasive species is severe all over the world. We have written about, Florida pythons, destructive snails, feral cats in Australia and Poland and other creatures bringing destruction from their native locales to other shores.


Published by ursusrising

long time writer and editor living in Los Angeles

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