Taiwanese agriculture officials have confirmed that the caterpillars found on a farm in Miaoli County last week have been identified as fall armyworms (Spodoptera frugiperda), an invasive species that has devastated crops across north America, Africa, the middle east and continental Asia in recent years.
The suspect larvae were found on a corn crop at the Flying Cow Ranch in Tongxiao Township, June 8, and were sent to the Bureau of Animal and Plant Health Inspection and Quarantine for analysis.
Quarantine officials suspect that adult moths of the fall armyworm may have been carried from southern China by the seasonal south-westerly airstream.
The corn field the grubs were found in has been plowed in and buried as a precaution, while inspectors are searching for adult moths while monitoring surrounding crops.
It is the first time the fall armyworm has been detected in Taiwan, but quarantine inspectors have been on the lookout for the South American pest since the grub rapidly spread over 14 provinces in China in 2018.
The fall armyworm is a major pest of grain crops including rice, which is a staple of Taiwan’s agricultural industry, but can also affect a wide range of crops also grown in Taiwan, such as peanuts, cucurbitaceae (melons, pumpkins, cucumbers), solonaceae (potato, tomato), and even tree crops such as citrus.