“The giant leopard moth (Hypercompile writing) is a large nocturnal lepidopteran that can reach up to 9 centimeters. Its name is because of the beautiful features that adorn its wings, which look like the fur of a white leopard.” With these words, Nicolás Quiroga, postdoctoral researcher and professor at the University of O’Higgins (UOH), described this insect that caused SAG alerts, after it was found on a ship that entered Chile through the port of San Vicente, on the coast of the Region of Biobío.
The researcher from the Institute of Agri-Food, Animal and Environmental Sciences (ICA3) of UOH, explains that the giant leopard moth is native to tropical areas, especially, in the United States, Mexico and Colombia, and says that our climate “may be an advantage in preventing its establishment in the national territory. However, it is important to remember that insects, in general, have remarkable adaptive capacities. ”
But why worry that it will enter Chile? Nicolás Quiroga responded that the introduction of any foreign species “can create an imbalance in ecosystems by occupying the ecological areas of other native species.” And he noted that “although the potential damages are important for our agriculture, it is important to emphasize that the Hypercompile writing It has the ability to feed on many types of plants. Its main hosts are Asteraceae, such as dandelions, Brassicaceae, such as cabbage, and even ornamental plants such as violets. “The caterpillars, in particular, cause damage by feeding on plant leaves, which can seriously affect the production of some vegetables if the species establishes and reproduces successfully in our territory.”
The professor of the Agronomic Engineering degree at the School of Agri-Food, Animal and Environmental Sciences (ECA3) of UOH, points out that, due to the scenario, the University of O’Higgins “is developing a project to monitor the area through the use of light tents and colorimetric traps to record their presence at night in the territory. In addition, we are working on a simulation that evaluates the potential establishment of this species based on the climatic conditions of Chile, since it is different from those place of its origin.” Nicolás Quiroga continued that “we are committed to working together to prevent and control this threat to our ecosystem and agriculture.”
Asked if there are ways to prevent their entry, the postdoctoral researcher pointed out that “prevention is the key strategy in these cases and requires the collaboration of researchers, communities and government authorities. In addition, it is important to maintaining constant vigilance at the points of entry into the country. We must remember that this tropical species does not adapt easily to our local conditions and the cold seasons can be an advantage in preventing its spread.”
And what happens when the giant leopard moth is already in Chile? Nicolás Quiroga points out that it is important to “continue constant monitoring and inform the population to track their presence. The most effective strategy to combat it includes identifying the sources and implementing specific control measures chemicals. In addition, there are control strategies that use pheromone traps to prevent their reproduction. However, the Agricultural and Livestock Service (SAG) is the entity in charge of providing the main instructions to prevent the establishment and spread in our territory.
As such, the postdoctoral researcher points out that “the inadequate management of the entry points of foreign products is worrying, because this type of situation has happened before. We call on the population and the authorities in charge of protecting the phytosanitary heritage of our country to raise awareness.