How do pests and diseases get into Australia and how can we detect them?

Exotic pests and diseases can hitchhike in cargo from trading and travel

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Historically, our country has been protected by its geographic isolation, which means Australia is free today of many of the pests and diseases common to other countries.

However, as Australia becomes more connected to the world through increasing trade and international passenger movements we will become progressively more reliant on good biosecurity practices to prevent, detect and respond to new incursions of exotic pests and diseases.

The risks are various. Plant pests and diseases can come into Australia through many pathways from the obvious (seeds, cuttings, plants and fruit) to the obscure (insects living in mail order packages, or hitching a ride on a boat). They can even disembark from the winds that brush by our shores.

The Commonwealth Government and all state and territory governments work together to prevent or respond to an incursion when it occurs. The community though can also play an important role in stopping the spread of exotic plant pests and diseases.

Buy from Australian suppliers. Australian suppliers of seed have either sourced their products locally or imported them through certified channels. Bringing in seed from overseas without going through approved biosecurity checks puts our country’s agricultural industries at risk.

Exotic pests can hitchhike into Australia on parcels from overseas

Exotic pests can hitchhike into Australia on parcels from overseas

If you receive a parcel from overseas, pay particular attention to any insects that may have hitchhiked in the goods or in the packaging. An all too willing ‘tourist’ to our country is the brown marmorated stink bug, which can cause major damage to our agricultural crops and nursery stock. All attempts to land here have been thwarted so far, but this exotic pest won’t take no for an answer. It won’t give up, nor should we give up in trying to stop it.

If you see anything unusual in a package you receive from overseas, seal it to prevent it escaping, and then call the Department of Agriculture on 1800 900 090.

Agriculture Victoria undertakes its own specific surveillance programs for exotic plant pests and diseases but we can’t be everywhere. Sensible biosecurity practices are a must for everyone. We need the community to remain vigilant and report anything unusual. Should an exotic pest, disease or weed be detected in Victoria, the department’s biosecurity staff will immediately endeavour to contain and eradicate the threat.

The earlier we take action the more likely an exotic pest or disease will be successfully eradicated. The economic, environmental and social benefits we enjoy from our geographical isolation compared to the rest of the world will be short-lived if we don’t remain vigilant at all times.

If you see a pest or weed that is unusual, take a photo and upload it to the MyPestGuide Reporter website or app. If you live in Victoria, your report will go directly to Agriculture Victoria’s team of entomologists.

Alternatively, you can report it to the Exotic Plant Pest Hotline on 1800 084 881. Calls within Victoria will be diverted to Agriculture Victoria. You can also make a report via our online form with a photo (where possible).  

Further Information

Biosecurity in Australia

Biosecurity in Victoria

Importing biological goods


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