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Biological Control of Invasive Plants

  Invasive plants - the problem:

  • Are not native (exotic) to an area
  • Greatly increase management costs for agriculture, forestry and land managers
  • Are the second greatest threat, after habitat destruction, to native species
  • Sometimes can't be controlled with traditional methods
  • Are often introduced without the natural enemies (insects, diseases) that help keep the plant under control in its native range


Pale swallow-wort overgrowing a former 
pasture, Jefferson Co., New York (Fran Lawlor, The Nature Conservancy)

  Biological control - a solution:

  • Biological control of weeds involves searching for and reuniting specialized natural enemies that may be effective in reducing the abundance of the specific weed.

  • Biological control is a long term approach to create a sustainable, effective, environmentally-sound and economical management tool in reducing the abundance and damaging effects of invasive weeds.
 Green states have exotic swallow-worts (USDA-NRCS, The PLANTS Database, 2005)

      Current Research:-2014 update.pdf

  • Current research is focused on two species of exotic swallow-worts, primarily found in the Northeastern U.S. and Southeastern Canada. There is much to be learned about their biology and what insects may be suitable and safe to import for the control of swallow-wort.
  • Let me know what other invasive weeds of the Northeastern U.S. are a concern to you.
swollow-wort blossomBlack (top) and pale (bottom) swallow-worts
(S. Darbyshire, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada)

Team Members

Dr. Lindsey R. Milbrath

Research Entomologist and Lead Scientist for Weed Biocontrol, USDA-ARS-BioIPM
Adjunct Associate Professor, Department of Entomology, Cornell University
Adjunct Associate Professor, Department of Crop and Soil Sciences, Cornell University

Dr. Donna Gibson
Supervisory Plant Physiologist, USDA-ARS-BioIPM
Adjunct Associate Professor and Research Affiliate, Department of Plant Pathology, Cornell University

Jeromy Biazzo
Biologist, USDA-ARS-BioIPM