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South Africa uses an insect army in its fight against invasive species

South Africa uses an insect army in its fight against invasive species

A water hyacinth planthopper, Megamelus scutellaris, sits on a hyacinth leaf showing the damage inflicted on the invasive plant by the insect

The water hyacinth, a South American aquatic weed, is widely considered to be one of the most problematic plants in the world. 

It has spread around the globe and infiltrated local waterways, making them hard to access. It is also a challenge to the environment, as it outcompetes native species and creates a dense mat covered in leaves that blocks sunlight from reaching animals and plants below.

Since the beginning of 1900, South AfricaWater hyacinth has They are all over the country.It has been difficult to control its growth with chemical herbicides or by hand or machine. 

A water hyacinth planthopper, Megamelus scutellaris, sits on a hyacinth leaf showing the damage inflicted on the invasive plant by the insect

The planthopper has been shown to be an effective biological control tool against the invasive plants in South Africa

In 2019, the Center for Biological ControlThe CBC, a Rhodes University institution in the country’s Eastern Cape Province introduced a new tool to fight invasive species: a native invert called the planthopper. 

Since 2019, the CBC has bred nearly one million planthoppers at a specialized facility. The insect army was activated on Hartbeespoort Dam, where hyacinth covers 40% of the water’s surface. 

See Also

A film by Jason Boswell

An aerial viewing showing the vast mats created by the free-floating weed

The plant builds up in certain areas of the dam, blocking sunlight and clogging waterways for boat traffic.

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