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Another invasive species to contend with... The complete story can be found at:

http://www.houmatoday.com/article/2...1?Title=Cactus-chomping-moth-found-in-Dularge
Cactus-chomping moth found in Dularge
By Nikki Buskey Published: Sunday, December 13, 2009 at 6:01 a.m.


HOUMA - It's a small brown-gray insect, but it's got a big appetite for a particular type of cactus.

The bug, which has been slowly making its way toward Texas, has been found in Dularge, LA feasting on prickly pear cactus populations there.
To keep the cactus moth away from Texas and the southwestern U.S. where the prickly pear cactus thrives, scientists are considering eradicating local prickly pear cacti, leaving the insect without the food source it needs to survive and stopping its westward migration.
The cactus moth, a South American bug that destroys the cactus, was discovered locally in August. The bugs have munched their way across the Gulf Coast for two decades, but this is the first time they've been seen in Louisiana.

"We intend, at this point, to throw up a barrier here (Dularge)," said Bill Spitzer, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's state plant-health director in Baton Rouge.
The cacti, seen as a pest plant to some here, but in other states they are "very much a necessary ecological plant" In Mexico, it's a crop worth $150 million a year, he told the Barataria-Terrebonne National Estuary Program Management Conference earlier this week. The Mexican government is "terrified" about the approaching cactus moth and extremely eager to make sure the cactus stays put in Louisiana, Massimi said.
In Texas, the plant prevents erosion and provides habitat and food for animals.

The moth's larvae kill the cacti as it develops. The moths, native to Argentina, lay their eggs one on top of another to form an "egg stick" on a cactus' sharp spikes. After hatching, the bright orange or red-and-black caterpillars burrow into the cactus pad to feed, leaving the plant's pads hollow and transparent.

The USDA's aggressive campaign could include identifying and destroying infected prickly pear cactus, as well as other types damaged by burning, thrashing or herbicide sprays.
Massimi said he's unsure about removing cacti from Louisiana's landscape as a means of controlling the moth. The cacti are prevalent in coastal landscapes and provide important habitat for birds, he said.
"We're trying to encourage the USDA to lean away from massive eradication," Massimi said.
The moth is a proven cacti-killer. ...

The agriculture agents also are breeding sterile male moths that they will release in areas where other cactus moth is found. The female cactus month mates only once. If she mates with a sterile male the population will decrease.
 
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