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Caterpillar threatens Northland pastures

As if they didn’t have enough on their plate, farmers in Northland are once again under threat from nature – this time in animal form.

Recent tropical conditions in the far north have been perfect for the spread of the tiny webworm caterpillars, which feed on native grasses and can destroy pastures.

Kaitaia Council Entomologist Peter Wising says the caterpillars are already widespread in the Motutangi area, and could well reach unmanageable levels in almost no time at all.

“With the hot humid weather, it just accelerates their growth stages.

“The insect is a tropical insect which likes tropical conditions, so while we’ve got these easterlies and humid weather they can race through their life cycle much quicker and have much better survival so they breed up.

“The numbers just accelerate so much quicker; in the right environment and in the right farms.

“When it first arrived there was just massive damage because they just breed up so quickly and there’s not a lot in the way of biological control with the insect either.

“So it really comes down to good farm management practices.”

Mr Wising says possible control measures will be explored over the next few days, but they’ll have to act fast.



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