Giant Asian moths spotted in the US for the first time – The Sun

GIANT Asian gypsy moths invading America are an "imminent danger" to farms and the natural landscape, experts have warned.

The 3.5-inch insects can fly 20 miles and lay 500 eggs at a time, quickly creating a plague of voracious caterpillars that strip trees bare of leaves.

The invasive gypsy moths follow hot on the heels of the murder hornets that threaten to devastate honey bee colonies.

One gypsy moth species native to Hokkaido in Japan was discovered recently in Washington State near Seattle – the first time it has been sen in the US.

Governor Jay Inslee issued an emergency proclamation last week following the discovery.

The state's Department of Agriculture warned: "This imminent danger of infestation seriously endangers the agricultural and horticultural industries of the state of Washington and seriously threatens the economic well-being and quality of life of state residents."

Both gypsy moths from Asia and Asian-European hybrid gypsy moths threaten the state, the proclamation warns.

Experts say they could spread across the US and cause "widespread damage", potentially devastating whole forests.

The US Department of Agriculture warned: "Large infestations of Asian gypsy moths can completely defoliate trees, leaving them weak and more susceptible to disease or attack by other insects.

"If defoliation is repeated for two or more years, it can lead to the death of large sections of forests, orchards, and landscaping.

"Any introduction and establishment of Asian gypsy moths in the United States would pose a major threat to the environment and the urban, suburban and rural landscapes."

Officials in Snohomish county near Seattle have sent planes to spray insecticide to halt their spread.

Part of what makes them so dangerous is their ability to fly 20 miles, giving them access to 500 host species of plant for their young to feast on.

European gypsy moths have been a pest in the Eastern United States since the 1860s.

That infestation is largely under control after a fungus that causes a collapse in moth populations was introduced in the 1980s.

Another sub-species of Asian gypsy moth has been detected and eradicated at least 20 times from 1991 to 2014 in locations on both the West and East coasts, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The moth threat was identified after Washington also suffered an invasion of giant Asian "murder" hornets.

The thumb-sized killers prey on honeybees and have a powerful sting that can kill a human.

Up to 50 people a year die from hornet stings in their native Japan.

Meanwhile authorities are warning of an invasion of giant lizards in the deep south.

Wildlife officials in Georgia have asked residents to report any sightings of an Argentinian black and white tegu, and to catch or kill them if they can.

Tegu – which are already established in Florida after escaping as pets – grow to more than 4ft and eat small animals, insects, fruit and seeds.

John Jensen, of the state's department of natural resources, said: "They eat just about anything.

"One of their favorite foods are eggs from ground-nesting animals such as gopher tortoises, our protected state reptile"

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