What is in this article?:
• The latest example is the release of beneficial beetles to target air potato vine, an “aggressive, invasive exotic plant that is displacing native plant species and disrupting ecological functions throughout Florida,” according to the USDA-ARS.
MELALEUCA, a prolific seed producer
Check on safety
“The second leaf beetle feeds on the baubles. That is currently in quarantine and being studied to see if it’s safe to release.”
Doing no harm…
“We want to make sure any insects released don’t attack any valuable plants or crops.
“Many people don’t stop and think about this. But, say, you have a garden and an insect is attacking your string beans. Typically, that same insect won’t feed on your corn. By their nature, most insects tend to be specialized on certain plant species. A few, like gypsy moth, feed on just about everything.
“So, we want to make sure we find insects that are specialists and not generalists. That’s why we spend two or three years simply testing these insects in quarantine and overseas to insure that is the case. We don’t want surprises.”
Has the United States sent invasives to other countries? Has the traffic gone the other way, as well?
“Absolutely. In fact, we go to Australia to find biocontrol agents of our Australian weeds. At the same time, Australians come here looking for biocontrol of their North American weeds. There’s a lot of sharing.
“Many of the weeds — particularly rangeland weeds — were contaminates in seed stock. But most of the ones we deal with in south Florida come from the nursery trade.”