Controlling mesquite in northern Australia
History of mesquite biological control
A biological control program was first initiated against mesquite by the South Africans in 1985. Seed-feeders were chosen with the intention of reducing the invasiveness of mesquite whilst preserving its beneficial properties.
Three seed-feeders were subsequently released and have become established in South Africa. Of those, two were later tested and released in Australia by Queensland Department of Natural Resources, Mines and Energy (QNRME) in 1996 and 1997. QNRME also tested a psyllid (Heteropsylla texana Crawford) in 1992 but it was not considered specific enough to release.
A biocontrol program against mesquite in Australia was initiated by CSIRO in 1994 and focussed on insect species which targeted vegetative foliage and reproductives (bud, flowers and pods) prior to their consumption by vertebrate herbivores.
Four potential agents were studied:
Mozena obtusa, a coreid bug which feeds on immature reproductives and vegetative foliage
Oncideres rhodosticta, a stem-girdling cerambycid
Prosopidopsylla flava, a sap-sucking psyllid which causes dieback
Evippe sp. #1, a leaf-tying gelechiid which is a defoliator.
Only the latter two insects, both from Argentina, were specific to mesquite and have subsequently been released throughout Australia since 1998.
The psyllid is only tenuously established in some regions. However, the moth is widely established, and is causing prolonged damage and impact in the Pilbara region of Western Australia.
The South Africans have recently restarted their biological control program against mesquite. It has not yet resulted in the release of any new agents.
Learn more about the mesquite agents studied.
- Cordo HA, DeLoach CJ. 1987. Insects that attack mesquite (Prosopis spp.) in Argentina and Paraguay: their possible use for biological control in the United States. United State Department of Agriculture, ARS-62. South American Biological Control Laboratory, Hurlingham, Buenos Aires. Argentina.
- De Loach CJ. 1985. Conflicts of interest over beneficial and undesirable aspects of mesquite (Prosopis spp.) in the United States as related to biological control. In: Delfosse ES. (Ed.). Proceedings of VI International Symposium on the Biological Control of Weeds 1984. Minister of Supply and Services. Vancouver, Canada. Pp. 301-40.
- Impson FAC, Moran VC, Hoffmann JH. 1999. A review of the effectiveness of seed-feeding bruchid beetles in the biological control of mesquite, Prosopis species (Fabaceae), in South Africa. African Entomology Memoir. 1:81-88.
- Paulsen HA, Ares FN. 1961. Trends and carrying capacity and vegetation on an arid southwestern range. Journal of Range Management. 14: 78-83.
- Ward CR, O'Brien CW, O'Brien LB, Foster DE, Huddlestone EW. 1977. Annotated checklist of New World insects associated with Prosopis (mesquite). United States Department of Agriculture, Research Services Bulletin. 1557.