Biocontrol: A Success Story!
|Mexican Petunia is a Category 1 invasive species in Florida.|
by Megan Weeks, Cuplet Fern Chapter of FNPS
Florida’s biodiversity is made remarkable by the plants and animals that depend on one another for survival. This delicate yet imperative relationship maintains a healthy natural environment, where the population of plants and animals are balanced. When new species are introduced, natives can be outsourced and the natural balance risks being disrupted. Biocontrol is one method to help restore a balanced environment.
|The air potato beetle is released into an area overrun |
by the invasive vine .
|Air Potato Beetle. Photo by Mary Keim|
In 1905 Dioscorea bulbifera, the air potato, was introduced to Florida and with no natural predators the exotic vine quickly became a threat to native plants. The infamy of this invasive species grew almost as rapidly as the plant itself and is a major concern for the Department of Agriculture. A biocontrol program was launched to find a predator that would consume or destroy the air potato. Scientists returned to Asia where D. bulbifera is endemic and found a small beetle that could survive by eating the invasive plant. Extensive research was performed to ensure that the beetle would not further disrupt the ecological balance.
|Larva of the Air Potato Leaf Beetle eating air potato leaves.|
Photo by Donna Bollenbach
This blog was reprinted with permission from the Frond Forum, the newsletter of the Cuplet Fern Chapter of the Florida Native Plant Society. If your chapter publishes informative articles that you would like to share, please send them to me for review. I am especially interested in getting plant profiles and "What's in Bloom?" from different areas of the state.
Donna Bollenbach, Social Media Director/FNPS