Researchers Ramp up Production of Moth to Combat Fireweed

December 27, 2012, 9:15 PM HST (Updated December 28, 2012, 7:59 AM)

Researchers at the Hawaii State Department of Agriculture are increasing production of the Madagascan fireweed moth, the larvae of which voraciously eats the leaves of fireweed, a rapidly spreading plant toxic to livestock.

Hawaii ranchers are hopeful that the small beige-colored moth will be help to reverse the spread of fireweed, which has wreaked havoc on island pasturelands.

Entomologists at the DOA spent years searching for a natural enemy of the weed that would be safe to release in Hawaii.

The fireweed is thought to have been brought to the islands in hydromulch material imported from Australia, where the weed is a serious pest.

Researchers began increasing production of the moth after receiving approval from the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) on Dec. 6. The first release of the biocontrol insects is slated for early 2013.



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