The Australian National Insect Collection helps us identify insects and biosecurity pests that are intercepted at Australia’s borders.

The Challenge

Keeping Australia free from pest species

Australia is free of many damaging pests and diseases, thanks to our geographic isolation, long history of biosecurity measures and strict quarantine.

Brown mulberry longhorn beetle © Australian Government Department of Agriculture, Adam Broadley

Australia's Quarantine Act was formed in 1908 and has ensured a high level of biosecurity for our country. The Australian Government Department of Agriculture inspects imported and exported items to maintain our unusual position within the world market of being free of a great many of the world's worst pests and diseases.

When specimens are intercepted at Australia's borders they need to be identified quickly so that the imported items can be treated, re-exported or destroyed if they are a biosecurity risk.

Our Response

Biosecurity entomology

Two biosecurity entomologists from the Department of Agriculture are based at the Australian National Insect Collection (ANIC) in Canberra. They use the collection to identify specimens intercepted at ports around Australia and provide advice to biosecurity entomologists based around Australia to help with future interceptions.

The collection has helped identify many specimens of high risk to Australia’s agriculture and forest industries.

The Results

Identifying pests at our borders

In May 2014, Department of Agriculture officers detected longhorn beetles in timber pallets imported from China, involving 337 shipping containers. They sent images of specimens to ANIC, where the Department’s biosecurity entomologists and CSIRO’s research taxonomists confirmed the IDs as:

Photo of the tomato potato psyllid found on Norfolk Island. © Australian Government Department of Agriculture, Ben Boyd

  • brown mulberry longhorn beetle Apriona germari
  • Asian longhorn beetle Anoplophora galbripennis
  • Japanese pine sawyer beetle Monochamus alternatus.

All three species are biosecurity pests that pose a high risk to Australia’s forestry industry, orchards and urban trees. The 337 containers were treated to control the biosecurity risk.

During 2013-14, the Department of Agriculture ran a two year survey on Norfolk Island targetting invasive and agricultural pests. The Department's staff at ANIC used the collection to identify organisms ranging from flies, bugs, beetles to ants. Among them, they discovered the tomato potato psyllid, Bactericera cockerelli, an exotic species that is native to North America and was accidentally introduced to New Zealand in 2006 where it has become a serious pest of solanaceous crops including tomatoes and potatoes.

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