Flying larvae? Yep, it’s a thing.
Asian Gypsy Moth (AGM) larvae can be wind dispersed. The larvae climb to the end of a branch or shoot and drop down on a silk strand. They dangle and use the long hairs on their bodies that make them buoyant and help them ‘fly’ for up to 50m in the wind.
AGM is a serious pest and fortunately it hasn’t established here in New Zealand. The most likely path for it to arrive is on vessels and vehicles as egg masses which is why we have strict controls in place, as well as a surveillance network near our borders and ports of entry.
The caterpillars are voracious feeders and can strip the leaves from entire trees, devastating forests. Were AGM to become established in New Zealand, they could spread rapidly, feeding on many trees that are common to our towns and cities like oak and birch. With our native forests already struggling due to pests like possums, the impacts could be devastating. There may also be market access restrictions which affect our importers and exporters with severe consequences to New Zealand’s economy.