Pest categorisation of Malacosoma disstria
The European Commission requested the EFSA Panel on Plant Health to conduct a pest categorisation of Malacosoma disstria Hübner (Lepidoptera: Lasiocampidae), commonly known as the forest tent caterpillar, for the territory of the EU. M. disstria is a North American polyphagous leaf-eating pest primarily feeding on deciduous trees belonging to the genera Acer, Malus, Populus, Prunus, Quercus and Tilia. It is a univoltine species. Eggs are laid on twigs and branches. Larvae emerge in the spring to feed on buds and fresh leaves. Host plants can be completely defoliated although they often refoliate and recover within a few weeks. Nevertheless, three consecutive years of heavy defoliation or repeated periods of defoliation combined with drought can cause extensive tree mortality. As such, M. disstria is regarded as one of the most serious hardwood forestry insect pests in North America. Population upsurges leading to outbreaks are cyclical, generally nine to 13 years apart and can last 2–3 years. Outbreaks have been reported in eastern North America since the late 18th century. Outbreaks in western Canada have spanned up to 200,000 km2. Plants for planting, cut branches and isolated bark provide pathways for entry. Host availability and climate suitability suggest that large parts of the EU would be suitable for establishment. The pest could spread naturally by flight within the EU. Eggs on plants for planting could also facilitate spread. The introduction of M. disstria into the EU could lead to serious outbreaks causing significant damage to forest, orchard and amenity trees and shrubs. Phytosanitary measures are available to inhibit the entry and spread of this species. M. disstria satisfies the criteria that are within the remit of EFSA to assess for it to be regarded as a potential Union quarantine pest.
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