Continuing the biological fight against a hardy foe – the maize-devastating western corn rootworm

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Stefan Toepfer, Szabolcs Toth and Matija Milkovic collecting western corn rootworms from highly invested maize fields in southern Hungary (Photo: Matija Mikovic)

CABI is continuing the fight against the maize-devastating western corn rootworm (Diabrotica virgifera virgifera) by collecting more than 22,000 live specimens of this chrysomelid beetle for further research into its biological control.

Dr Stefan Toepfer has been busy in the maize fields of southern Hungary gathering the insects, which, of Mexican origin, have invaded many maize production areas of North America and Europe – adapting to nearly all management options regardless of insecticides, transgenic maize, or crop rotation.

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Colony of weevils safely in CABI Pakistan quarantine

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A colony of 200 Listronotus (Listronotus setosipennis) have been safely transported from South Africa to Pakistan. The stem mining weevil is a biological control agent against parthenium. CABI’s Dr Philip Weyl, with the help of Dr Lorraine Strathie (ARC-PPRI) successfully imported the weevils into the new quarantine facility at CABI’s Central and Western Asia (CWA) offices in Pakistan from South Africa.

The weevils arrived safely into their new home in Pakistan with “virtually no mortality” according to Dr Weyl. The insects have been put onto parthenium plants to start CABI’s own colony for host specificity testing of important plants in Pakistan.

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Scientists confirm first report of egg parasitoid in Africa to fight devastating fall armyworm

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Adult Telenomus remus (Copyright: G. Goergen, IITA)

A group of scientists have confirmed the first report of an egg parasitoid Telenomus remus in Africa which could prove an important biological weapon in the fight against the devastating fall armyworm (Spodoptera frugiperda) that threatens the food security of more than 200 million people.

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CABI updates International Soft Fruit Conference on fight against devastating invasive fruit fly

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Drosophila suzukii on cherry. Photo credit: Tim Haye

CABI scientist Dr Lukas Seehausen has updated delegates at the International Soft Fruit Conference in s-Hertogenbosch, in the Netherlands, on the very latest research in the fight against the devasting fruit fly Drosophila suzukii.

Dr Seehausen, a research scientist in risk analysis and invasion ecology based at CABI’s Swiss centre in Delémont, said a biological control agent – the parasitoid Ganaspis cf. brasiliensis – could soon be released to manage the invasive pest in Europe.

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Controlling the European earwig on the Falklands

Contributed by Norbert Maczey, CABI

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The European earwig, Forficula auricularia (Photo: Norbert Maczey, CABI)

The European Earwig, Forficula auricularia (order Dermaptera) was recently introduced to the Falkland Islands and has since become locally common in Port Stanley and a number of settlements in both East and West Falkland. Since its introduction this invasive species has caused considerable problems ranging from yield losses in horticulture to health and safety issues (eg. hiding behind rubber seals in oxygen masks or in asthma inhalers) and threats to the indigenous ecosystems. There are now worrying observations of earwigs away from settlements indicating a considerable threat to the composition of native invertebrate communities. The exact date when earwigs were first introduced is unknown but early records stem from as far back as 1997. Earwigs have become a real nuisance pest since the mid-2000s. Continue reading

CABI releases rust fungus to control invasive weed, Himalayan balsam

26 August 2014 – From today, not-for-profit research organization, CABI, will be releasing a rust fungus at locations in Berkshire, Cornwall and Middlesex as part of field trials to control the non-native, invasive weed Himalayan balsam (Impatiens glandulifera) using natural means.

Himalayan balsam has rapidly become one of the UK’s most widespread invasive weeds, colonizing river banks, waste land, damp woodlands, roadways and railways. The Environment Agency estimates that the weed occupies over 13% of river banks in England and Wales. It can reach over three metres in height and competes with native plants, reducing biodiversity. Large scale chemical and manual control is often not feasible and not economically viable.

Himalayan balsam infestation on the river Torridge, Devon, UK
Himalayan balsam infestation on the river Torridge, Devon, UK (Rob Tanner, CABI)

Using existing measures, the Environment Agency estimates it would cost up to £300 million to eradicate Himalayan balsam from the UK.

The release of the rust fungus comes after an eight-year research programme funded primarily by Defra and the Environment Agency, with contributions from Network Rail, the Scottish Government and Westcountry Rivers Trust. During the course of the research, testing in quarantine laboratories has established that the rust fungus causes significant damage to Himalayan balsam and does not impact on native species.

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The XIV International Symposium on the Biological Control of Weeds, Kruger National Park, South Africa, March 2014

In March 156 delegates from 24 countries travelled to the Kruger National Park in South Africa to attend the XIV International Symposium on Biological Control of Weeds (ISBCW) which was held at the Nombolo Mdhuli situated in the Skukuza Camp (2 – 7 March 2014). This quadrennial international symposium is a prestigious conference which provides delegates with an opportunity to present novel research on all aspects of biological weed control, to reflect on past experiences and discuss the way forward for the discipline and – this goes without saying – to catch up with old friendships and forge new ones. Three years on from the previous symposium in Hawaii and timed to commemorate “100 years of weed biological control in South Africa” 1, the African continent hosted the meeting for the second time in its history (the first time being the IX ISBCW held in Stellenbosch, South Africa in 1996). However, perhaps partly because of the increasingly severe constraints on funding and failure to gain official approval from respective governments/organizations, which made it impossible for many people to attend, this year’s symposium saw lower delegate numbers than previous ones. Some of the traditional “strongholds” in weed biocontrol, i.e. Australia, USA and Canada were clearly underrepresented, while the high number of European participants reflected the rapidly increasing interest in weed biocontrol in this part of the world. Sadly, apart from the participants from South Africa, only one other African country (Kenya) was represented. Last, but not least, it was an important and positive feature of attendance at this symposium that up-and-coming, younger scientists from all over the world were very well represented and the presence, prominence and enthusiasm of the next generation of weed biocontrol scientists at the XIV ISBCW seems to bode well for the future of the discipline.

Nombolo Mdhuli Conference Centre, Skukuza Rest Camp, Kruger National Park
Nombolo Mdhuli Conference Centre, Skukuza Rest Camp, Kruger National Park. Host venue for the XIV International Symposium on the Biological Control of Weeds (Photo: Marion Seier)

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