Prickly Pear Pest

This is Passport to Texas

There’s a moth making its way to Texas from Florida whose larvae feed exclusively on prickly pear cactus.

07—The cactus moth has proven to be a really effective eradicator of prickly pear.

invertebrate biologist, Michael Warriner, says Australian officials imported the cactus moth—a South American native—in the mid 1920s as a biological control against the coastal prickly pear; a nonnative species they had imported in the early 1800s. It escaped cultivation and eventually infested 62 million acres of land.

11—And over a few years, it didn’t totally eliminate it, but it reduced it substantially. So, it’s proven to be one of the most successful biological control agents, as far as insects go.

The moth, discovered in the Florida Keys in 1989, may have arrived on imported prickly pears, and since then has spread up to South Carolina and over to Louisiana.

26—So, the concern is that if it makes it to the southwestern United States and Mexico that it could have a similar impact and eradicate or reduce prickly pear; and the fact is that—for Mexico especially—prickly pear is a major agricultural commodity in the tens of millions of dollars in terms of value. And it’s worth millions of dollars in the US, too: for agriculture and biodiversity and landscaping.

Tomorrow: How to identify and prevent the spread of the cactus moth.

That’s our show for today… For Texas Parks and Wildlife…I’m Cecilia Nasti

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