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Biocontrol introduction

Target pest: Ulex europaeus (Fabales: Fabaceae), gorse

Agent introduced: Agonopterix umbellana (Lepidoptera: Depressariidae) = Agonopterix ulicetella, gorse soft shoot moth


1982, 1983, 1990, 1996, 2001

Import source:

UK, 1982, 1983, 1990 ; UK via Hawai'i, 1996, 2001



Release details:

Cameron et al. (1989), Gourlay (2011d) - imported in 1982 and 1983 for evaluation but not released then because of concerns over the potential for Cytisus proliferus (tagasaste) to be a host. Field trials in Hawai'i showed it was safe to release in New Zealand and it was imported again in 1990 and released widely throughout the country in the early 1990s.


Harman et al. (1996) - has established in Canterbury.

Gourlay (2011d) - now well established and common in parts of the South Island (especially Canterbury, Marlborough and Tasman) but still rare in the North Island.

Landcare Research (2017g) - well established and spreading at a site in Northland.

Impacts on target:

Gourlay (2011d) - where outbreaks have occurred the damage has been noticeable, but the overall effect on plant growth is unknown.

Landcare Research (2017g) - some impressive outbreaks in the South Island, but impact still unknown.

Paynter et al. (2018) - abundant, but impacts on the target plant are unknown and appear to be minor.

Impacts on non-targets:

Gourlay (2011d) - extremely unlikely it will attack plants other than gorse in New Zealand. In Europe it attacks other Ulex species that are not present in New Zealand.

Paynter et al. (2015) - surveys of potential non-target hosts Cytisus scoparius (Scotch broom), Trifolium pretense (red clover), Lupinus arboreus (tree lupin), Cytisus proliferus (tree lucerne, tagasaste) and Spartium junceum (Spanish broom) report no feeding.


Cameron PJ, Hill RL, Bain J, Thomas WP (1989). A Review of Biological Control of Invertebrate Pests and Weeds in New Zealand 1874-1987. Technical Communication No 10. CAB International Institute of Biological Control. DSIR Entomology Division. 424p.

Gourlay H (2011d). Gorse Soft Shoot Moth. In The Biological Control of Weeds Book (Landcare Research) https://www.landcareresearch.co.nz/discover-our-research/biosecurity/weed-management/using-biocontrol/the-biological-control-of-weeds-book/

Harman HM, Syrett P, Hill RL, Jessep CT. (1996). Arthropod introductions for biological control of weeds in New Zealand, 1929 - 1995. New Zealand Entomologist, 19(1): 71-80

Landcare Research (2007a). New Zealand Arthropod Collection (NZAC) Biological Control Voucher Collection. http://www.landcareresearch.co.nz/resources/collections/nzac/holdings/biological-control-voucher-collection

Landcare Research (2017g). Who's who in biological control of weeds? Weed Biocontrol: What's New? 81: 10-11 https://www.landcareresearch.co.nz/publications/newsletters/biological-control-of-weeds/issue-81

Paynter Q, Fowler SV, Groenteman R. (2018). Making weed biological control predictable, safer and more effective: perspectives from New Zealand. BioControl 63: 427–436 (first published online 8 Aug 2017) https://doi.org/10.1007/s10526-017-9837-5 https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10526-017-9837-5

Paynter QE, Fowler SV, Gourlay AH, Peterson PG, Smith LA and Winks CJ (2015). Relative performance on test and target plants in laboratory tests predicts the risk of non-target attack in the field for arthropod weed biocontrol agents. Biological Control 80: 133-142 https://doi.org/10.1016/j.biocontrol.2014.10.007