Seven years after its Florida
release, the melaleuca leaf weevil has significantly reduced melaleuca
flowering and growth. Click the image for more information about
story to find out more.
Showing Florida How to Oust an Invasive
November 1, 2004
The spread of the invasive tree melaleuca is being thwarted in Florida,
thanks to a cooperative program that includes enlisting the help of the tree's
natural enemies in Australia.
The collaborative effort is being carried out by the Agricultural
Research Service (ARS), the
University of Florida's
Institute of Food and Agricultural
Sciences, and the South Florida Water
Management District. ARS is the U.S.
Department of Agriculture's chief scientific research agency.
The effort is called the TAME
Melaleuca Project, which ARS established in 2001 to help control melaleuca.
Melaleuca quinquenervia was introduced to South Florida in the late 19th
century as an ornamental plant, but this fast-growing, fast-spreading tree has
displaced native plants and animals, dried up wetlands and created major fire
TAME takes an areawide approach to managing this Australian pest on
public and private lands.
D. Pratt, a research entomologist at the ARS
Invasive Plant Research Laboratory in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., is the
project's director, while entomologist
Silvers serves as the coordinator.
The purpose of TAME is to demonstrate the effective integration of
biological control into other management strategies, including use of
herbicides and mechanical removal of melaleuca, to achieve long-term results.
Especially sought are control treatments that reduce existing infestations and
prevent new ones, while minimizing risks to non-target organisms.
The first natural enemy released against melaleuca was the melaleuca
leaf weevil, Oxyops vitiosa. More than 8,000 of the weevils were
released at 13 locations in 1997. Today, millions of the quarter-inch-long
weevils are eating the young leaves of melaleuca trees. The second biological
control agent, the aphid-like psyllid Boreioglycaspis melaleucae, has
also been effective. This tiny insect feeds on the tree's clear sap. Young
melaleuca seedlings are the most vulnerable. To date, approximately 350,000
psyllids have been released at a variety of South Florida locations.
The TAME Melaleuca team will publicize data on the project web site (http://tame.ifas.ufl.edu), in handbooks and
brochures, and at outreach events.
more about the research in the November issue of Agricultural