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Beetles help manage widespread vine weeds

Beetles are not only the most dominant, species-rich group of organisms in the world they are also new allies in the fight against canopy destroying weeds.

North Coast Local Land Services, NSW Department of Primary Industries and Rous County Council continues to employ the novel approach of rearing and releasing insect biological control agents to help control infestations of wide spread vine weeds such a Cat’s claw creeper (Dolichandra unguis-cati).

Wide spread noxious and environmental weeds such as Cat’s claw creeper pose an enormous threat to agricultural productivity and biodiversity on the North Coast. Limited resources and widely distributed weeds mean that ongoing 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.

Phil Courtney, Manager of Weeds Services at Rous said, “Rous County Council and North Coast Local Land Services continue to support DPI with their biological weed control program in the hope that these types of techniques will provide future promise in curbing the growth and destructive impact of these weeds in riparian areas.

“We don’t envisage biological control being a ‘silver bullet’ approach on its own, but more as an aid to support other weed control methods in a multi-prong approach to strategically reduce their impacts on canopy trees.”

Phil continued, “Already we are seeing evidence of relatively naturalised vine weeds such as morning glory being subjected to damage by native beetles and are optimistic that these insects can offer a service where human resources for weed control become limited”.

With further testing and monitoring being undertaken, the jewel beetles are appearing to reduce the shoot growth of the weed to limit Cat’s claw creeper’s ability to smother native plants.

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 6623 3917.

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

Photo captions:

1. Biocontrol release - Left to right; Troy Brown, Department of Primary Industries, Rhett Patrick, Rous County Council.
2. Jewel Beetles (Hylaeogena jureceki) actively gazing on cats claw creeper – credit Troy Brown
3. Beetles on morning glory vine.