The madness of moths on Mars

A tiny Asian moth has got bosses at confectionery giant Mars running scared, because of its liking for the cocoa plant.

The insect is threatening to devour entire crops in Papua New Guinea, one of the world's main chocolate-producing nations, and could send the price of chocolate rocketing.

Mars has even flown out a team to the Pacific islands to eradicate the insects.

The moths – which bear the scientific name conopomorpha cramerella Snellen – lay their eggs in the pods of the plant, the main ingredient in chocolate. The larvae then feed off the pods, damaging the crop.

Mars' cocoa sustainability director, Roger Dehnel, called the moth a 'real threat to overall production in Asia'.

The region contributes about 17 per cent of the world's cocoa production to the £2.6billion industry.

The moths were found in East New Britain province in April but have now spread to at least one other area. Aprevious outbreak infected about a fifth of Indonesia's crop in 1998, causing up to £10million of damage.

Mars is working with the US Department of Agriculture to test a series of anti-moth measures.

They include a 'honey trap' strategy of luring male moths to adhesive traps baited with synthetic female sex pheromones.

Mr Dehnel said the traps now being supplied to Papua New Guinea were an 'elegant solution' to the problem, that did not harm the environment.

But he added: 'The question we are grappling with is: Will we kill enough moths to make a difference?'


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