Female moth of the species Austromusotima
camptonozale, previously known as Cataclysta camptozonale. Click the
image for more information about it.
Moth Released to Curb Spread of Climbing Fern
February 14, 2005
WASHINGTON, February 14More
than 100 tiny moths from Australia were released in Florida this morning to
begin a biological control effort against an invasive weed that has spread over
more than 100,000 acres in the state.
Scientists with the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and officials from the State of
Florida released the moths this morning at the
Dickinson State Park in Hobe Sound, Fla. The moth, Austromusotima
camptonozale, is the first biological control agent approved for release
against the invasive weed Old World climbing fern, Lygodium
This aggressive vine has spread across south and central Florida, scaling
the stems or trunks of other plants to form thick vegetative blankets. On the
ground, it creates tough, spongy mats that smother grasses, low-growing shrubs
and small trees.
"Land managers consider this fern to be the state's worst invasive
species, so we hope the moth will begin to offer much-needed relief," said
W. Pemberton, at the
Plant Research Laboratory at Fort Lauderdale, Fla. He leads the
international research effort to develop biological controls for the weed.
Climbing fern is native to the Old World tropics including Australia,
Africa, tropical Asia and the Pacific Islands but doesn't cause problems in
those areas, probably because natural enemies help keep it in check. Searching
for natural enemies of the fern in its native habitat, scientists at the ARS
Control Laboratory in Indooroopilly identified several promising
candidates, including A. camptonozale. Then they tested these biocontrol
candidates to make sure they would only feed on the fern and not on other,
The moth released today measures just half an inch from wingtip to wingtip
and is bright-white, with spots and stripes on its wings. The larvae of the
moth feed on climbing fern's leaves, damaging the vines.
The Indooroopilly scientists shipped a supply of moths to the Florida
Department of Agriculture and Consumer Service's biological control quarantine
facility in Gainesville for three years of testing by scientists with the ARS
Plant Research Laboratory and the University
of Florida. Upon completion of those tests, federal and state approval was
obtained to turn the moths loose at climbing-fern-infested sites in Florida.
This biological control program is a collaborative effort among ARS, UF, SFWMD,
and Florida Department of Environmental Protection.
Herbicides have been the major weapon against climbing fern, but the weed
thrives in remote wetland areas that are difficult and expensive to treat.
A. camptonozale and other biocontrol organisms may provide an effective
and more environmentally friendly alternative to the use of herbicides in
ARS is the U. S. Department of
Agriculture's chief in-house scientific research agency.