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A potential ‘jewel’ of an approach to managing a wide spread weed

Jewel BeetlesNorth Coast Local Land Services and NSW Department of Primary Industries have partnered with National Parks and Wildlife Service (Office of Environment and Heritage), Far North Coast Weeds and Forestry Corporation of NSW to employ a novel multi-tenure approach to strategically controlling outlier infestations of Cat’s claw creeper using a biological control agent.

Wide spread noxious and environmental weeds such as Cat’s claw creeper (Dolichandra unguis-cati) pose an enormous threat to agricultural productivity and biodiversity on the north coast. Limited management resources and widely distributed weeds mean that on-going priority management is best focused at an asset-based level.

The tiny leaf mining jewel beetles (Hylaeogena jureceki) are the unlikely allies in this battle with Cat’s claw creeper and have been reared in glasshouses at Grafton Primary Industries Institute by NSW Department of Primary Industries. While the jewel beetle is a native to tropical South America (Argentina, Paraguay and Brazil) tests have shown it cannot develop on any of the 34 closely related native Australian plants due to high host specificity with Cat’s claw creeper.

Release jewel beetlesJai Sleeman, Senior Land Services Officer said, “In this new partnership we have released around 200 jewel beetles at a strategic site adjacent to an established hoop pine plantation and high conservation value native vegetation - the Threatened Ecological Community – Lowland (Dry) Rainforest - at Mount Pikapene in the Richmond Valley Council local government area”.

Jai continued, “The site was a good candidate to do an on-going release of this biological control agent since it is a large outlier infestation of Cat’s claw creeper, is relatively remote, steep and inaccessible and all these criteria present challenges for employing typical weed management techniques such as herbicide spraying”.

With further testing still to be undertaken, the jewel beetle will potentially reduce the shoot growth of the weed to limit Cat’s claw creeper’s ability to smother native plants and reduce productivity in plantations. If you would like more information about the strategic Cat’s claw creeper biological control program please contact Jai Sleeman at North Coast Local Land Services on 02 6623 3917.

Photo captions:

Jewel Beetles Hylaeogena jureceki poised for release.

Biocontrol release - Left to right; Jai Sleeman, North Coast Local Land Services, Rhett Patrick, Far North Coast Weeds, Louise Celtis, Office of Environment & Heritage and Eddie Hayward, Far North Coast Weeds.

Media contact: Jai Sleeman, Senior Land Services Officer Phone 02 6623 3917