The New Jersey Department of Agriculture has found a new way to combat an invasive plant. The mile-a-minute is a vine that has been killing the state’s native trees and shrubs.
“It can grow up and over and sometimes even choke out native vegetation that is not able to grow,” said Cyndi Detweiler-Hill, an entomologist at the Beneficial Insect Rearing Lab.
But, the plant now has a new predator: the weevil.
Originating from China, the weevil feeds off the dangerous plant, stopping its ability to grow and spread across the state.
The insect is described to be a sesame seed-sized beetle with an elongated snout.
According to Detweiler-Hill, who has been studying the weevil for eight years,the bug changes to an orange-ish color when it comes in contact with the plant.
Prior to its release into the environment, scientists ensured the foreign insect would not cause any further harm to the Garden State.
“We went through the many steps to make sure that that insect would not become a nuisance itself here. It had to go through a rigorous quarantine and testing process,” Detweiler-Hill said.
In 2005, the weevil was released in various parts of the state and since then it has significantly reduced the abundance of the mile-a-minute.
“Where there’s mile-a-minute, you’d be very hard pressed to find an area where the weevil has not already found it. Weevil’s that we’ve released in a different area of the state have dispersed themselves because as they reproduce they will travel to an area that is not as densely populated to find new sources of food,” said Detweiler-Hill.
Over 680,000 of these beneficial insects are now present in 11 states across the northeast region, combating the mile-a-minute.