Significant damage was avoided to the ecosystem based on prickly pear in Mexico thanks to the eradication of Cactus Moth outbreaks from Caribbean islands of Mexico

Significant damage was avoided to the ecosystem based on prickly pear in Mexico thanks to the eradication of Cactus Moth outbreaks from Caribbean islands of Mexico The cactus moth (Cactoblastis cactorum) is a great threat to important Opuntia crops of Mexico. Opuntia cacti have a great economic, environmental and cultural significance to the people of Mexico. The cactus moth has been expanding its range invading the Caribbean islands, then reaching the state of Florida in 1986 and since then advancing to Alabama and Louisiana in the USA, and increasingly becoming a serious threat to Mexico.

In view of this threat, the Joint FAO/IAEA Division of Nuclear Techniques in Food and Agriculture encouraged the Mexican Ministry of Agriculture to establish a monitoring programme that detected the pest on July 31, 2006 in Isla Mujeres and on May 4, 2007 in Contoy Island National Park.


Significant damage was avoided to the ecosystem based on prickly pear in Mexico thanks to the eradication of Cactus Moth outbreaks from Caribbean islands of Mexico As a result the Program for the Eradication of the Cactus Moth in the Yucatan Peninsula was implemented, involving coordinated efforts among the Mexican Ministry of Agriculture, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Joint FAO/IAEA. The area of the outbreak was defined and an area-wide pest management approach, involving a permanent surveillance, host destruction, and the Sterile Insect Technique (SIT), was launched to eradicate the pest from Mexico. For the SIT mass reared insects are sterilized with gamma-radiation before their systematic release over the target areas.

- In February 2009, three biological cycles of the pest had passed without any pest detection. The outbreaks have therefore been officially declared eradicated.
- As a result, significant damage was avoided to whole ecosystems based on Opuntia, as well to the economically important Mexican cactus and prickly pear industries.
- Through the project, Mexico developed a comprehensive surveillance programme capable of the early detection and eradication of the cactus moth from the national territory.
- Mexico enhanced its cooperation with the USDA regarding the control and maintenance of a barrier of sterile insects in Alabama and Louisiana.