Eurasian watermilfoil is a stringy lake weed that can grow over 10 feet in length. What makes this plant a particularly successful invasive species is its ability to quickly disperse and reproduce. Eurasian watermilfoil easily breaks apart and can wrap around boat propellers or float down river. If these bits of plant settle in a new area, they can quickly grow entirely new plants. This wicked weed has been spreading around the world via pleasure boats and transport ships.
EnviroScience Inc. is an American company that has been receiving quite a bit of attention for their Milfoil Solution. They have developed a procedure to drastically reduce populations of Eurasian watermilfoil. The secret of their success is using a native insect, the milfoil weevil, to combat the invasive species. Using a natural animal, plant or insect to control another is called biological control. Milfoil weevils normally live in Ontario’s lakes and eat native species of orthern milfoil. EnviroScience Inc. has learned that milfoil weevils also have an appetite for the invasive Eurasian watermilfoil. Every stage of the milfoil weevil lifecycle is damaging to the milfoil plant, but the larval stage is especially damaging. Milfoil weevil larvae are hungry from the time they hatch, and burrow their way through the stem of the plant.
Armed with this knowledge, EnviroScience Inc has a plan of attack. Phase one of the Eurasian watermilfoil management plan is to collect milfoil weevils from local lakes and quickly breed them in a laboratory setting. When enough weevils have hatched, they are strategically released back into the lakes their parents came from. This bumps up the population of milfoil weevil to a level where they may be able to start controlling the milfoil population. This differs from traditional methods of biocontrol where foreign species are released into a new area in order to control another species. Traditional methods of biological control are hit or miss at best, with some failing spectacularly. EnviroScience Inc uses a technique that has produced excellent results in many other lakes, so hopes are high for the Sudbury milfoil situation.
Here at Science North we are running our own test on two tanks of Eurasian watermilfoil. One test tank has been treated with extra weevils, and the other without. In the coming weeks and months we hope to see a drastic reduction in the Eurasian watermilfoil population. Stay tuned as we follow this exciting story and for more cool science.
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