Weevil May Be Answer to Garlic Mustard Invasion

Scientists may have found the answer for controlling the invasive plant.

Published on: Jan 8, 2009

Scientists using an innovative computer program believe they may have found an answer to controlling the spread of garlic mustard, a plant that has spread across thousands of acres of forestland, killed native plants and threatens to disrupt the development of a native butterfly.

Like many other invasive species, garlic mustard seemed harmless when it was brought to America from Europe a century ago.

But in Europe the plant had natural predators, small weevils that feed on the plant during several stages of growth.

Now, a researcher with the USDA Invasive Weed Management Unit says introducing the weevil in the U.S. might be the best answer to controlling garlic mustard. The risk of using insects for weed control, however, is that the insects have been known to become invasive pests, destroying species plants other than the intended weed.

Now, however, researchers have a computer model that has helped them picked the weevil likely to be the best pest controller. The bugs are now in quarantine at the University of Minnesota where they are being tested to make sure they are unlikely to threaten unintended plants. If they perform the way the model suggests, they will soon be bred and released into garlic mustard infested forests across the country.