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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

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History of SABCL


The South American Biological Control Laboratory (SABCL) was settled in Argentina in 1962 for the study of insects to control alligator weed in the United States. The success achieved in the reduction of this weed by three insects from Argentina motivated a second project, water hyacinth. After the studies conducted at SABCL, this aquatic weed was partially controlled in the southeast of the United States by two weevils and one moth from Argentina. These insects are now in most tropical places around the world in which water hyacinth is a problem.

In 1967, several north American rangeland weeds (bitterweed, creosotebush, snakeweeds, tarbush, whitebrush, cocklebur) were selected as targets for biocontrol and SABCL started the exploration for natural enemies on south American con-generic plants. Due to conflict of interests in the control of native plants in the United States, the research programs at SABCL were reoriented in 1994.

     Other past projects conducted at the SABCL included the following targets: dung and filth flies, balloon vine, horsenettle, morningglories, nutsedges, sicklepod, velvetleaf, Azolla, groundsel, musk thistle, rush skeletonweed, and Parkinsonia.

The current program includes insect pests and weeds with ARS cooperators in the United States designated by  National Program Leaders, Drs. Kevin Hackett and John Lydon. Cooperative agreements exist with the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO), Australia, the Center for Agriculture and Biosciences International (CABI), UK, and the Plant Protection Research Institute (PPRI), South Africa.  A total of 25 organisms for biocontrol have been developed or co-developed by SABCL staff and field released in the United States and other countries; several other organisms are still in quarantine for further research.

SABCL is operated by the USDA-ARS-Office of National Programs, Beltsville, MD, and supervised by Dr. Daniel Strickman, National Program Leader for Veterinary and Medical Entomology and Acting Director of the ARS Overseas Laboratories. Local support is provided by the American Embassy at Buenos Aires, mainly the Agricultural Counselor, David Mergen, at the Foreign Agriculture Service.

Mission of SABCL

1-  Find, evaluate, and ship to the United States and/or other cooperator country biological control agents against selected invasive pests




2-  Provide guidance and logistic support to scientists conducting research in Argentina




3-  Act as liaison with agricultural research agencies and universities for detecting areas of potential cooperative work


4-  Report and publish the results of the investigations


Organisms released

The following beneficial organisms were found and evaluated for biocontrol both at SABCL and at the quarantine facility of the destination country. The organisms were finally released in the field by the cooperator scientists at destination. Some of the beneficials, especially those against waterhyacinth and alligator weed, were redistributed in many countries in Central America, Africa and Asia.


The list below includes: scientific name of the beneficial organism, common name of the target pest, year and country of first release.


1- Agasicles hygrophila, alligator weed, 1964, USA

2- Aminothrips andersonii, alligator weed, 1967, USA

3- Orthogalumna terebrantis, waterhyacinth, 1968, USA. (?)

4- Arcolla malloi, alligator weed, 1971, USA

5- Neochetina eichorniae, waterhyacinth, 1972, USA

6- Neochetina bruchi, waterhyacinth, 1974, USA

7- Niphograpta albiguttalis, waterhyacinth, 1977, USA

8- Disonycha argentinensis, alligator weed, 1980, Australia

9- Xubida infusella, waterhyacinth, 1982, USA

10- Neohydronomus affinis, waterlettuce, 1982, USA

11- Heilipodus ventralis, snakeweed, 1988, USA

12- Ontherus sulcator, dung, 1992, USA

13- Gromphas lacordairei, dung, 1992, USA

14- Penthobruchus germaini, retama, 1995, Australia

15- Kneallhazia (=Thelohania) solenopsae, imported fire ants, 1996, USA. (?)

16- Evippe sp., mesquite, 1998, Australia

17- Prosopidopsilla flava, mesquite, 1998, Australia

18- Pseudacteon curvatus biotype Buenos Aires, imported fire ants, 2000, USA

19- Pseudacteon curvatus biotype Formosa, imported fire ants, 2000, USA

20- Pseudacteon tricuspis, imported fire ants, 2003, USA

21- Gratiana boliviana, tropical soda apple, 2003, USA

22- Pseudacteon litoralis, imported fire ants, 2004, USA

23- Pseudacteon obtusus, imported fire ants, 2008, USA

24- Megamelus scutellaris, waterhyacinth, 2010, USA

25- Pseudacteon cultellatus, imported fire ants, 2010, USA

Organisms in quarantine

The following beneficial organisms were found and evaluated for biocontrol at SABCL. They are currently being evaluated at the quarantine facility of the destination country for eventual field release. 


The list below includes: scientific name of the beneficial organism, common name of the target pest, and location of quarantine facility.


Clinodiplosis alternantherae, alligator weed, Brisbane, Australia

Vairimorpha invictae, imported fire ants, Gainesville, FL, USA

Gonatocerus spp., glassy-winged sharpshooter, Riverside, CA, USA

Coelocephalapion gandolfoi, mesquite, Pretoria, South Africa

Apocnemidophorus blandus, Brazilian peppertree, UF Gainesville, FL, USA

Chlorosteymon simaethis, balloon vine, Pretoria, South Africa

Cissoanthonomus tuberculipennis, balloon vine, Pretoria, South Africa

Liothrips sp., pompom weed, Hilton, South Africa

Cochylis n.sp., pompom weed, Hilton, South Africa

Adaina sp. pompom weed, Hilton, South Africa

Pseudacteon nocens, imported fire ants, Gainesville, FL, USA

Hydrotimetes natans, fanwort, Brisbane, Australia

Taosa longula, waterhyacinth, Ft. Lauderdale, FL, USA

Systena nitentula, alligator weed, Brisbane, Australia

Eueupithecia cisplatensis, retama, Brisbane, Australia


Last Modified: 1/11/2011