Biological controls use living organisms to reduce seed production and vigor of an invasive species. Biological controls can be as small as releasing ladybugs into your vegetable garden or as extensive as years of dedicated study and observation between trusted University researchers. In this context, Biological Controls refer to vetted use of organisms (typically insects) that limit the growth, dispersal, and reproduction of invasive species. Biological Controls are often a natural predator that evolved alongside the target invasive species from their shared place of origin. Before an insect is released, it must undergo extensive testing in order to ensure that it too will not become a problematic pest or impact local ecosystems.
Biological controls are a long-term approach and, after years of testing, take time to establish or display positive results in a given geography. Biological controls do not eradicate infestations all together, instead are used to decrease the growth and seed production potential so that target species become less competitive across the landscape. Therefore, it is important to use a combination of appropriate management strategies to ensure long term success.
Benefits of biological control:
Utilizes natural predator-prey relationships
Can be used on environmentally sensitive areas, near water, and hard to access places
Designed to treat landscape-scale infestations
Reduces the vigor of invasive plants and can reduce seed production
Used for long-term management of invasive terrestrial and aquatic plants
Limitations of biological control:
Biological control agents are not available for many invasive species
Will not “eradicate” an invasive plant
Can take multiple years (sometimes 10-20) before any noticeable difference in invasive plant populations are seen
Requires years of research and investment of resources