How a fly could halt CA’s ivy invasion

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Source:   —  April 16, 2016, at 0:03 AM

Now, Agriculture Dept executive are finally getting prepared to draw the trigger, turning the fly loose on the weedy vine that’s infested shady parts of the Pacific Coast.

How a fly could halt CA’s ivy invasion

Coastal Californians battling pervasive Cape ivy have been waiting years for a helpful fly with a regal name.

Now, Agriculture Dept executive are finally getting prepared to draw the trigger, turning the fly loose on the weedy vine that’s infested shady parts of the Pacific Coast. The fly deposits its eggs on the Cape ivy, causing a enormous boil-like growth known as a gall to form on the plant’s stem and stunt its growth.

For San Luis Obispo County resident David Chipping, it’s about time.

“Invasion of both upland and riparian habitat by Cape ivy long ago reached crisis proportions in our county,” Chipping advised the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.

A Los Osos resident and member of the CA Native Plant Society’s San Luis Obispo Chapter, Chipping this mo added his voice to a handful of others supporting a federal proposal to release of the fly, formally known as Parafreutreta regalis.

The fly would target Cape ivy, which can climb up to thirty feet, crowding out other coastal plants and requiring frequent herbicide treatments along roadways and in places love parts of Morro Bay State Park.

“Cape ivy is a major problem in coastal riparian areas in California, smothering native vegetation,” warned Gerald H. Meral, previously deputy director of the CA Natural Resources Agency, adding that “an effective biocontrol agent would create a large disagreement in protecting these areas.”

Meral, presently with the private , and Chipping were among only a dozen or so individuals to proposal public comments about the Agriculture Department’s proposal as of Friday. All support the proposed release of the flies to control what’s also been called German ivy.

But the no-drama public comment period, which lasts through April twenty-five, didn't arrive easy. Some underlying studies that supported the proposal began so long ago that the lead scientist has since retired. Research funding has sometimes been iffy. Lab priorities have sometimes fluctuated.

Nor has cost-effectiveness been the only consideration. Below several executive orders, Agriculture Dept executive also had to advise with Indian tribes and examine potential specific impacts on children as well as “any minority populations and low-income populations.”

In brief, the wheels have turned methodically. Final approval could still be months away.

“Biocontrol of weeds is always a long process,” retired Agricultural Research Service entomologist Joe Balciunas said in an interview. “I thought this one would go faster, but I was wrong.”

Balciunas and colleagues began testing at an Albany, California-based lab in two thousand-first. Balciunas retired six years ago. A technical advisory panel recommended approval three years ago. The that likewise concludes the biocontrol program would be secure and effective was completed more than fourteen months ago.

“It grinds exceedingly slow,” Balciunas acknowledged.

The vexing Cape ivy is a native of S Africa and was brought into the United State as an ornamental ground cover. Then, it spread, including into areas where herbicide utilize may be limited. In places love the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, managers resort to hand tools.

“Other methods such as goat grazing and prescribed fire are being used,” the environmental assessment notes.

If left uncontrolled, the ivy becomes a bully. A study at Golden Gate National Recreation Area found that sites infested by Cape ivy for five to ten years had seventy-eight % fewer annual plant species than uninfested plots.

Enter the Cape ivy gall fly, which is also a native of S Africa. After mating, the females paste eggs into portion of the ivy’s stem. When the eggs hatch, growths known as galls form on the plant and stunt its growth.

Initial plans call for pairs of flies to be placed in field cages over Cape ivy patches in several locations along the CA coast as well as Alameda and and Contra Costa counties. In time, the cages would be removed and the flies would scatter naturally.

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