Scientists Release Biocontrol for Waterhyacinth
May 18, 2010
A new insect that will help control the
invasive weed waterhyacinth has been released by
Agricultural Research Service (ARS)
scientists and cooperators.
Waterhyacinth (Eichhornia crassipes) is a free-floating aquatic plant
native to South America that has infested freshwater ecosystems from North
Carolina to California but is especially problematic in the southeastern United
States. The plant is a real menace, affecting water traffic, water quality,
infrastructure for pumping and hydroelectric operations, water use and
biodiversity. Other problems include fish kills due to low oxygen levels and
increases in populations of vectors of human and animal diseases.
Center, both with the agency's
Plant Research Laboratory (IPRL) in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., worked closely
with scientists at the ARS
American Biological Control Laboratory (SABCL) in Hurlingham, Argentina, to
find and test Megamelus scutellaris, a new biocontrol for waterhyacinth.
M. scutellaris is a small planthopper native to South America whose
nymphs and adults feed on the sap of waterhyacinth. Nymphs are active and
readily hop, even off the surface of the water. The insect's population
increases rapidly, which will enable it to quickly impact the waterhyacinth
Herbicides are the primary method for reducing waterhyacinth, but their use
directly interferes with the biocontrol agents currently deployed against this
weed. The scientists believe M. scutellaris may integrate better with
existing herbicide programs because of its mobility, which should improve its
survival in such highly managed systems.
The researchers collected adults of M. scutellaris from Argentina in
April 2006 and brought them to the quarantine facility in Ft. Lauderdale where
extensive host-range studies were conducted. They found that the planthopper is
highly host-specific and does not pose a threat to native or economically
Tipping and Center will join representatives from the
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation
Commission, which provided more than $300,000 in financial support for the
project, and the U.S.
Army Corps of Engineers at an event celebrating the insect's release today
at the Edgefield Regional Stormwater Treatment Facility owned by the
St. Johns River Water Management District
near Palatka, Fla.
ARS is the principal intramural scientific research agency of the
U.S. Department of