Exotic insect discovered in New Zealand for the first time

A biosecurity programme for gypsy moth has uncovered an insect never previously seen in New Zealand.

A Biosecurity New Zealand surveillance programme in the Dunedin suburb of Abbotsford found larva of the poplar sawfly, which is commonly found in Europe, Asia and North America.

Manager of Biosecurity Surveillance and Incursion, Brendan Gould, said the species is not known to cause significant harm.

"Countries overseas where the poplar sawfly is present have not reported any major concerns about the impact it can cause," he said.

"At worst it appears to cause some defoliation of poplar trees," said Mr Gould.

Authorities are keen to hear from anyone who has seen the poplar sawfly.
Authorities are keen to hear from anyone who has seen the poplar sawfly. Photo credit: Supplied

Mr Gould said Biosecurity New Zealand is assessing the potential risk from the poplar sawfly.

"Once this assessment is complete we will decide on next steps alongside our GIA industry partners."

Biosecurity New Zealand has undertaken surveillance in the area where the larva was found and has determined there is an established sawfly population in the area.

"We would like to hear from anybody who thinks they might have seen poplar sawfly larvae on poplar trees."

"This, along with further sampling in the area, will help us identify how far it has spread."

Anyone who may have seen poplar sawfly larvae is advised to keep hold of them, take a photo and call Biosecurity New Zealand's exotic pests and diseases hotline, on 0800 80 99 66.

About the poplar sawfly:

Poplar sawfly larvae are up to 16mm long. They are overall yellow with two lateral rows of black spots and whitish hairs, heads are blackish and brownish, except some yellow spots on the frontal part.

Adult poplar sawflies are less likely to be recognisable to the public as they are small and fly in the air. They are 6-9mm long and their colouring is reddish yellow and their heads and part of thorax are black. Their wings are yellowish and glassy, and veins on wings are a reddish yellow.