Biosecurity alert - Fall armyworm

Fall armyworm in NSW

Fall armyworm (Spodoptera frugiperda) is an insect pest that has now been detected in NSW.

This insect pest is a serious threat to a wide range of industries including grain, rice, cotton, vegetables and sugarcane.

The detections were a result of a joint NSW Department of Primary Industries (NSW DPI) and Local Land Services initiative to establish an early warning trapping network in response to the threat of fall armyworm. These traps were established in Autumn 2020.

The pest was first detected in NSW on 23 September 2020 north of Moree. Subsequent detections were made east of Narrabri and west of Wee Waa in October 2020.

Populations of fall armyworm have already been established in northern Western Australia, Northern Territory and Queensland since first being identified in Australia in early 2020.

It is anticipated that the pest will impact NSW summer cropping with flights moving into NSW from northern states.

Early detection is vital to minimising the spread and impacts of fall armyworm in NSW.

To find out more about fall armyworm, visit the DPI website.

How to identify fall armyworm

Small larvae will be difficult to identify in the field, but they are often pale green to brown, with a dark head capsule.

Larger larvae have some characteristics that make identification easier, these include similar colouration to other Noctuids, but they have:

  • A dark head capsule with a distinct upside down Y shape between the eyes
  • Two dark dots with spines on each upper body segment
  • Four dark spots arranged in a square on the last abdominal segment
  • Three pale lines running the length of the body may be seen on larger larvae.

Adult moths are difficult to distinguish from other Noctuid moths in the field and will need to be sent to NSW DPI for identification.

For more information on how to identify the larvae, including links to a webinar on diagnostics, visit the DPI website.

How to report suspect fall armyworm cases

If you suspect fall armyworm you must report it immediately to NSW DPI.

Fall armyworm is a notifiable plant pest in NSW. All notifiable plant pests and diseases must be reported within one working day.

You can report notifiable plant pests and diseases by one of the following methods:

A full list of notifiable plant pests and diseases can be found in Schedule 2 of the NSW Biosecurity Act 2015.


Find out more about plant, pests and diseases here.