Programme uses insects to curb invasive plants

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Cape Town – More than 243 000 biocontrol insects, also known as agents, have been reared for release into the environment to destroy alien invasive plants across the City of Cape Town.
Councillor Brett Herron, Mayoral Committee Member for Transport and Urban Development, visited the City of Cape Town’s Insect Mass Rearing Facility in Westlake on Wednesday to meet the City’s biocontrol agents.
“Overall this cost-effective, natural and innovative biocontrol project is very exciting. I am looking forward to seeing more successes because by reducing invasive plants, we are making way for indigenous species, and this will contribute to creating a more sustainable environment for all of us to enjoy,” said Councillor Herron.
Since 2014, the City has been using this organic, cost-effective and environmentally safe biological control method to curb invasive plants by breeding and releasing their insects – invasive plants’ natural enemies according to the City.
“Today’s visit to the insect-rearing facility has been most fascinating. In order to rear the agents, our team actually grows the plant which the agents are intended for,” said Councillor Herron during the visit to the Insect Mass Rearing Facility.
“The aquatic invasive plants are grown in the artificial ponds at our facility and this is also where the agents grow and complete their life-cycle. The agents are then collected from these ponds when they are ready to be released on their mission.”
The City explained that each of the insects were first physically counted and then placed in plastic containers. Afterwards, they are transported and released on the specific invasive plant. The number of insects that are released depends on the size of the mission field.
The Cape Town Biological Control Programme is a partnership between the Department of Environmental Affairs and Rhodes University’s Department of Entomology. The project forms part of the City’s efforts to create jobs and manage invasive plants to ensure a more sustainable environment.