UNAM specialists warned about the arrival of the cactus-eating moth (Cactoblastis cactorum), which is found in the Caribbean and comes from South America, thus threatening 107 species of native nopales and crops in Mexico.
A group of researchers led by Juan Enrique Fornoni Agnelli, a professor at the Institute of Ecology (IE) of the UNAM, says the path of this insect is a consequence of migration promoted by man.
What was previously used as a natural way to control cactus plants can now backfire for our country. “In Australia, farmers wanted to control this pest and looked for a natural enemy of this cactus, and they found it in South America, where there are species of nopales similar to those found in the rest of the Americas.
This insect is very efficient in controlling Opuntia populations because it eats the stalk from the inside, it rots the entire plant, and that causes the productivity of the nopal to be greatly reduced ”, he explained. Nature has placed it closer and closer to Mexico on the side of the Gulf of Mexico.
“Today, this moth is just 800 kilometers from the border with Tamaulipas, in the Gulf of Mexico, it is very close to entering the country. In 2005 it was detected in Isla Mujeres and Isla Contoy, in Quintana Roo, and the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (SAGARPA), through the National Service of Health, Safety, and Quality (SENASICA), controlled this invasion.
In 2009, it was declared that Mexico was free of this invasive insect, but an intensive monitoring and control program was started in the most vulnerable area, which is the northern border, the Gulf of Mexico and the Yucatan Peninsula ”, said the university scientist.
“In Mexico, 350 thousand tons of stalk are produced per year, with about 50 thousand producers involved in various states of the country”, said Fornoni. “There are many potential effects, not only to the economy but also to the social development of many parts of the country, in addition to the effects on genetic resources that Mexico has as a reservoir and center of biodiversity, where cacti have been domesticated.”