Rhode Island Biocontrol: Using Insects to Control an Invasive Vine

Researchers seek additional sites where mile-a-minute grows

Media Contact: Todd McLeish, 401-874-7892

ri-biocontrol-smallAlong a roadside in Hopkinton, Lisa Tewksbury uncapped several vials containing hundreds of tiny weevils and released them on a group of vines with triangular leaves. The weevils are known to only feed on mile-a-minute vine, an aggressive invasive plant native to the Far East that arrived in Rhode Island in 2008 and has taken up residence in several communities.

The plant is the target of a University of Rhode Island biocontrol effort designed to let the plant’s natural enemy keep it in check without affecting the region’s native species.

“Mile-a-minute is a very persistent plant that is difficult to get rid of,” said Tewksbury, a URI entomologist who is rearing 18,000 weevils for release this year. “We know that biocontrol works on this plant, so we’re hoping the weevil population will be self-perpetuating and they will keep mile-a-minute under control.”

Tewksbury asks the public to report populations of mile-a-minute vine so she can release weevils in those locations later this year. She can be reached at 401-874-2750 or lisat@uri.edu. To identify the plant, visit www.mam.uconn.edu/speciesID.html

Mile-a-minute was first discovered in the United States in the 1930s in the Mid-Atlantic States, where it is believed to have arrived via the horticulture trade. Since then it has spread to 10 states and become established along roadsides and streams, moving from place to place in the water and via animals that eat and distribute it.

[Read more]