Nebraska's noxious weeds are not native to the state and, in most cases, not native to the United States. These plants have been introduced either on purpose or by accident. When this happens, the natural enemies which can attack these plant species are usually left behind in the plant's home environment. Natural enemies are most often a plant disease or insect which may attack one or several species of a plant.
Since 1988, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), divisions of Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) and Plant Protection and Quarantine (PPQ), in cooperation with the Nebraska Department of Agriculture (NDA) and the Nebraska Weed Control Association (NWCA), have been releasing biological control (biocontrol) agents for certain noxious weeds in Nebraska. These natural enemies are insects which have been collected from their native environment.
Before the prospective biocontrols can be released, they are placed in quarantine to determine if they are host specific to the plants that they are intended to control. (This means the agent will only attack the intended plant species and will not effect other plants which are valuable to our environment.)
Once the quarantine process is completed, the biocontrol agents are released in the field to establish insectaries. The insectaries are monitored for insect survival and population levels. When the desirable population is reached, the biocontrol agents are ready for redistribution to new locations to develop other insectaries. After several insectaries have been established, small populations of agents are moved to smaller noxious weed infestations.
Currently, work is being done to pursue biocontrol agents for all of Nebraska's noxious weeds. USDA/APHIS/PPQ, NDA, and NWCA are actively investigating new agents for release. While this approach may never completely control noxious weeds, we view biocontrol as another tool to help battle these invasive plant species.
If you would like more information concerning biological control of noxious weeds, contact your local Noxious Weed Control Authority or the Nebraska Department of Agriculture.
Information about the biological control of noxious weeds can be found at:
USDA/ APHIS/ PPQ noxious weeds website.