by SUSAN MANN
A small moth with a big name and a large appetite for apples was discovered for the first time in the western hemisphere at Niagara’s Queenston-Lewiston Bridge border crossing earlier this month.
American border patrol officers found the moth, called phaecasiophora fernaldana Walsingham, Oct. 6 on a truck from Canada carrying an ocean container full of pump valves that originated in China, says an Oct. 10 press release from the United States Customs and Border Protection. The moth is from the tortricidae family.
The release notes American officials issued an emergency action notification to the importer and the shipment “will be returned to Canada.”
From there the trail of what happened to the truck and whether it contained more moths that might pose a risk to Canadian, and particularly Ontario, apple growers grows cold. The Canada Border Services Agency refused to answer questions about the situation. Diana Scott, communications officer for the agency’s southern Ontario region, says by email the agency is bound by parameters of the Customs Act and won’t “speak to the specifics of any one import/export commercial entry or traveller.”
Experts with the United States Department of Agriculture confirmed Oct. 8 the moth is an invasive insect that poses a potentially significant threat to the agricultural industry, the American border agency’s release says. It feeds on apples, apple buds, leaves and shoots.
Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada referred questions about the threat this moth may pose to the Canadian industry to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. CFIA officials didn’t provide information in time for this posting.
Charles Stevens, Ontario Apple Growers chair and crop protection section chair for the Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association, says his personal opinion is he doesn’t know much about the moth so “you can’t worry about it unless you’ve got more information.” He adds the information he’d like to know is what kind of damage the moth does and whether current crop protection materials now registered “would have efficacy on this insect. If they do, then it’s not probably a big problem.”
The world is so small and there are many products and travellers coming into Canada from all over the world so “at the end of the day all the species of the world will be all over” the entire Earth, he adds. “I do not believe we’re going to be able to keep the insects from travelling on the world express.”
If the moth can survive in the Canadian climate “eventually it will be here and we will have to deal with it,” he notes.
In the past six years, two new invasive pests have made it into Ontario – the brown marmorated stink bug and the spotted wing drosophila.
Of the brown marmorated stink bug, Stevens says the Canadian Border Services “basically said they can’t stop it.” Nor can they do much about spotted wing drosophila, which he likened to a fruit fly. “It’s so small and it reproduces so rapidly, it’s impossible to stop.”
Stevens says it was a fluke American border officials found the moth because border officials in both countries don’t check every load of goods going between the two countries. He says it’s his understanding in produce only three per cent of the shipments that go across the border are checked. “It would take an army to check everything.” BF