The benefit of constant surveillance
The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) has just released their Annual Surveillance report for 2020 which highlights continued significant surveillance efforts across New Zealand to ensure we remain free of unwanted organisms.
General surveillance provides a way for New Zealanders to report suspected plant pests and diseases that are not already present in New Zealand. The report shows it’s been a busy year, with just over 1,000 called made to MPI’s hotline (0800 88 99 66) by the public. This is a slight dip on last year, but not unexpected as both travellers and cargo imports have been impacted due to COVID-19. Of these calls, MPI was able to stand down 26% immediately as no risk was found and 66% required further investigation to understand the level of risk.
As well as general surveillance, MPI runs several targeted surveillance programmes which look at specific high-risk pests such as the Brown Marmorated Stink Bug (BMSB) and economically damaging fruit flies, like the Queensland Fruit Fly (QFF).
The national fruit fly trapping network has been running since the mid 1970’s and has successfully detected 12 fruit fly incursions early enough that we were able to eliminate them before they were able to establish. The traps are placed strategically around New Zealand based on several factors, including climate, ports of arrival, suitable hosts, and population density. The most recent response was in 2019 in Auckland and spanned almost a whole year before freedom from QFF was declared.
During the most recent high-risk fruit fly season there were 2,653 submissions from the traps sent to MPI’s laboratory, involving over 5,000 suspect fruit flies – fortunately, all returned negative. The trapping network is active from late September until early July, with the season running longer in the North due to the warmer climate.
The national BMSB surveillance programme is much newer and was established in the 2018-19 season to provide early detection and monitoring to facilitate eradication should BMSB be detected. The trapping network was increased to 80 trapping sites last season with additional traps in Tauranga (funded by the kiwifruit industry), Napier, and Nelson. The results show 596 samples were submitted, involving 650 stink bug specimens.
One BMSB was detected in the trapping network in March 2020 which resulted in further investigation and determined no further risk. While this find may seem concerning, it helps to highlight the value of such networks in catching BMSB early and allowing swift investigation and management of risk before a population can get hold in the environment or community.
You can read more about all of the above, and much more, in the latest Surveillance Annual Report 2020 on the MPI website.