Controlling moth plant

23 June 2022

KVH has received reports of moth plant in shelter belts around eastern Bay of Plenty and reminds growers of the needs to control this unwanted pest plant.

Moth plant is a poisonous (the sap can cause a painful dermatitis) South American vine, common in coastal areas of the upper North Island, and very invasive in orchard shelter belts or nearby weedy areas. It harbours passion vine hopper and slows shelter trimmers, so is very unwelcome in kiwifruit orchards.

If possible, dig vines out of a shelter belt using a sharp spade. If you try to pull large vines they often snap off at the base and regrow. Wear gloves and protective clothing to avoid any contact with the sap.

In a world first, the Bay of Plenty Regional Council last year released a biocontrol agent - the moth beetle – at a suitable area near Tauranga to assist in the control of this pest. The larvae of the moth beetle feed on the vine’s roots, killing many vines. Watch a video about the release here. Further released at nearby locations are planned.

It will take some years for the beetle to build a population which will reduce moth plant infestations, so do continue to destroy moth plant vines in all kiwifruit orchards.

Image: Moth plant (pictured in a Cryptomeria shelter belt) poses a threat to New Zealand’s native trees and is unwelcome in kiwifruit orchards.