Comparisons of fall armyworm haplotypes between the Galápagos Islands and mainland Ecuador indicate limited migration to and between islands.
The migration of the fall armyworm (Spodoptera frugiperda) is of topical interest because of its recent introduction and rapid dissemination throughout the Eastern Hemisphere. This study compares fall armyworm from island and mainland locations in Ecuador to estimate migration behavior. The Galápagos Islands is a province of Ecuador whose mainland coast lies approximately 1000 km to the west and is the closest major land mass. Air transport modeling indicates that natural migration from the mainland to the Galápagos is unlikely, suggesting that most, if not all, the introgressions of mainland fall armyworm into the Galápagos are occurring through trade-assisted transport in contaminated cargo, which is offloaded at the Galápagos port of entry in San Cristóbal island. Haplotype studies are consistent with this limited migration and further show divergence in the fall armyworm from San Cristóbal with those from the neighboring island of Santa Cruz despite their close proximity (less than 100 km distance) and favorable winds for inter-island flights. These observations indicate that water poses a significant barrier for moth migration in this region, with human-assisted transport probably playing a more important role than natural migration.