Biosecurity New Zealand is assessing the potential risks from a recently discovered exotic insect.

Biosecurity New Zealand's Gypsy Moth surveillance programme has uncovered a larva of the poplar sawfly, an insect which was new to New Zealand.

The larva was detected in a trap in the suburb of Abbotsford, Dunedin.

In a written statement, Biosecurity NZ's manager of surveillance and Incursion, Brendan Gould, said the species was not known to cause significant harm.

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"Countries overseas where the poplar sawfly is present have not reported any major concerns about the impact it can cause.

"At worst it appears to cause some defoliation of poplar trees," he said.

Poplar sawfly larva found during Biosecurity New Zealand survelliance programme. Photo / Supplied
Poplar sawfly larva found during Biosecurity New Zealand survelliance programme. Photo / Supplied

Gould said the poplar sawfly was commonly found in Europe, Asia and North America, and Biosecurity New Zealand was assessing the potential risk.

"Once this assessment is complete we will decide on next steps alongside our GIA industry partners."

Biosecurity New Zealand has undertaken surveillance in the area where the larva was found and determined there is an established sawfly population in the area.

"We would like to hear from anybody who thinks they might have seen poplar sawfly larvae on poplar trees. This, along with further sampling in the area, will help us identify how far it has spread."

Anyone who sees larvae of this exotic insect they should keep hold of it, take a photo and call Biosecurity NZ's exotic pests and diseases hotline on 0800 80 99 66.

Poplar sawfly:

Larvae: Up to 16mm long; yellow with two lateral rows of black spots and whitish hairs, heads are blackish and brownish, except some yellow spots on the frontal part.

Adults: 6mm to 9mm long; reddish yellow and their heads and part of thorax black, wings yellowish and glassy, and veins on wings are a reddish yellow.