Midwest Fights Weeds With Bugs

Biological control takes a food-chain approach to invasive plants
By Nick McMaster,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 2, 2008 2:20 PM CDT
A man walks past last year's growth of Phragmites, also known as "Giant Reed," in this Sunday, May 13, 2007 file photo, at Maumee Bay State Park in Oregon, Ohio.   (AP Photo/J.D. Pooley, FILE)
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(Newser) – Officials in the Midwest are returning to a tried-and-true technique to fight invasive plants, the Chicago Tribune reports. Biological control uses natural enemies to rein in pests, and importing a tiny brown beetle in the 1990s brought under control a fast-spreading European weed, known as loosestrife, that was terrorizing agriculture. There are other enemies now—but scientists worry the approach could create other problems.

It's possible the insects will find indigenous plants tasty, too, or will lose their appetite for the target species. "There's always that apprehension: Things are great now, but what will things be like in the future?" says an Illinois ecologist. "Will something we bring in now haunt us down the road?"