Biological Control Facts
In this image, Dr. Frederick Bennett, and Phyliss and Dr. Dale Habeck, are in their UK Isle of Man garden. In the late 1980s, UF/IFAS Professors Bennett and Habeck carried out the first overseas exploration to conduct initial surveys for the identification of the Brazilian peppertree's natural enemies. So began the UF/IFAS biological control program to manage Florida's most serious invasive plant. Many years of careful study ensure biological control insects released to control the tree are safe.
- Biological control is a safe, sustainable, and cost-effective method of pest control that uses host-specific natural enemies (usually insects and mites) to reduce the density of an invasive pest.
- One reason plants become invasive is because they are introduced into new areas without their coevolved natural enemies (herbivores and pathogens). The enemy release frees up resources for the plant to grow faster, reproduce more, and outcompete our native vegetation.
- Classical biological control is the introduction of host-specific natural enemies (usually insects and mites) from the native range of the pest organism to reestablish this natural control.
- Classical biological control of invasive weeds involves many years of research to determine the safety of potential biological control agents.
- Research includes investigations for host specifity, potential toxicity, potential non-target impacts, damage to the target, and any conflicts of interest.
- Completed research is scrutinized by a panel of scientists and government regulators (Technical Advisory Group of the Biological Control of Weeds [TAG]).
- Scientists must demonstrate both the safety and effectiveness of a potential biological control agent following guidelines found at: https://www.aphis.usda.gov/import_export/plants/manuals/domestic/downloads/tag-bcaw_manual.pdf
- The steps of the review process are outlined at https://www.aphis.usda.gov/plant_health/permits/tag/downloads/flowchart.pdf
- After approval by TAG the research is also reviewed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Native American groups, and placed in the Federal Register for public comment.
- Two biological control species, a thrips (Pseudophilothrips ichini) and psyllid (Calophya latiforceps) have been found to be safe for release following intensive studies conducted by University of Florida/IFAS and USDA-ARS scientists with more than 20 years' experience conducting such assessments.
- Following review of the science, the technical advisory group committee (or TAG) recommended release of both Brazilian peppertree biological control agents. Both USDA/APHIS and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Commssiona endorse the release of these agents.
- Following a 30-day public comment period and review of those comments, release permits for the agents were issued.
- Once released from quarantine and established, these biological control agents will be mass produced and provided to interested individuals throughout the invaded range at no cost. These populations will be self-sustaining, limited to only by an abundant weed. Research indicates that both biological agents will reduce growth of plants and spread of the weed population by reduction reproduction.