THE POTENTIALLY devastating crop pest fall army worm has been detected on the Australian mainland.
Just weeks after its first sighting in Australia in islands in the Torres Strait, Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (DAF) officials confirmed there had been a positive identification of fall army worm at Bamaga on Cape York in far north Queensland.
Biosecurity Queensland general manager of plant biosecurity Mike Ashton said a suspect moth collected at Bamaga was tested and confirmed to be fall army worm.
He said it highlighted the pest's ability to move rapidly in clement conditions.
"This detection follows recent confirmed detections on two Torres Strait Islands, Erub and Saibai and underlines how quickly this pest can spread," Mr Ashton said.
The incursion of the pest, which can be damaging to a range of crops from cereals to fruit trees, means government officials will have to formulate a response swiftly to minimise potential impact.
Surveillance programs will now be in full swing in northern Queensland, including rich agricultural regions such as the Atherton Tablelands, along with the coastal fringe from Cairns to Mossman.
"Biosecurity Queensland has proposed a response plan that is being considered by the national Consultative Committee on Emergency Plant Pests," Mr Ashton said.
He said farmers needed to consider their own responses.
"Growers should have on-farm biosecurity measures in place to protect their crops from pests and diseases."
In terms of identification Mr Ashton said fall armyworm larvae were light coloured with a larger darker head.
"As they develop, they become browner with white lengthwise stripes and also develop dark spots with spines," he said.
In the moth phase he said adult moths are 32 to 40mm in length wing tip to wing tip, with a brown or grey forewing and a white hind wing.