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Fall of communism gives moths new freedom

(First Edition)

MAMESTRA Brassicae, codename Kirin-KSC, is one of the latest casualties of Russian administrative re-organisation to hit the West. The product is a virus of the Cabbage Moth and it is used to treat moth infestation.

Kirin-KSC was used in May this year by the Forestry Commission to treat a plague of Pine Beauty Moths in 270 acres of forest on Lewis, in the Outer Hebrides. The moths' caterpillars defoliate trees and the introduction of foreign species of pine has helped destroy the habitat of the moth's natural enemies, beetles, birds and small insects. The outbreak on Lewis was among Lodgepole Pine, an American import.

The estate has nearby sites of special scientific interest and salmon fisheries, which ruled out the use of chemical pesticides.

Dr Jenny Cory, a virologist at the Government's Institute of Virology and Environmental Micro-biology, in Oxford, said the Russians are the world's cheapest producers of the Kirin-KSC virus, which comes from factory farm methods of rearing insects.

However, the traditional routes of ordering it have been disrupted in the chaos now affecting the former Soviet Union states. The Forestry Commission says it needed three times as much to fully treat the Lewis problem.

Although damage has already been done, the commission's scientists are now waiting to see how successful the virus that they were able to use has been .

Kirin is a nuclear polyhedrosis virus (NPV), which attacks the cells of larvae. Chris Innes, of the Forestry Commission's Inverness office, said: 'We will be carrying out pupal counts (cocoons) of the larvae in September and October. Then we will able to judge how successful the virus has been.'

However, the problem remains that future use of Kirin-KSC is in doubt until supply routes reopen.