The mile-a-minute weed is an Asian vine that invades a variety of habitats in the eastern United States. It became established in the mid 1930s at a nursery in Stewartstown, Pennsylvania, where it emerged with a planting of holly seeds that originated from Japan. As its name suggests, the vine grows incredibly fast, and as it spreads it kills other plants. In addition, it puts out thousands of seeds each year which widens its range considerably.
Since there are no native insects in the U.S. that feed on the vine, it has no natural enemies to keep it in check, and using herbicides or manpower to cut the weeds can be expesive and difficult. However, scientists believe they can use tiny weevils from Asia to help control it, and this week thousands of weevils will be released in several parks in New York City. The weevils, which are only two millimeters long, eat small holes in young leaves of the mile-a-minute vine and lay eggs on the leaves and stems. When the eggs hatch, they bore into the stems, which stunts the plant’s growth, delays seed production, and can even cause the vines to die.
Known as biological control, or biocontrol, this technique has been used on other weeds as well. For example, scientists in Texas are using tamarisk beetles to control an invasive weed called salt cedar.
Read more at: