Cactus-eating moth threatens favorite Mexican food

Híjole, we must be the only race in the world that is consumed by itself.

By Frank Jack Daniel

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – A moth with a big appetite that once chomped its way through huge swaths of cacti in Australia has landed in Mexico, where the spiky plant is a favorite food stuff and major agricultural product.

Officials said on Friday a moth trapped close to the beach resort of Cancun this week could be the same species that destroyed some 50 million acres of cacti in Australia, opening the possibility the moth will spread to Mexico’s cactus farming regions.

The Cactoblastis cactorum moth landed on Mexico’s Caribbean island Isla Mujeres last year, sparking a major government pest control operation.

Pest control agents have set up hundreds of traps along the coastline and are searching hotels and private homes for further signs of the moth.

“This is war,” said Enrique Sanchez, head of plant and animal health in Mexico. “If lots of them arrive we will try to destroy the largest number possible with pesticides.”

The edible cactus, or nopal, industry in Mexico is worth about $150 million each year. About 10,000 farmers cultivate the plant.