What is BioControl?
Biological control or biocontrol is the suppression of populations of pests using living organisms. Since 2016, the Alberta Invasive Species Council (AISC) has been the project coordinator for a biological control release program using host-specific insects for invasive weeds in Alberta. The program reintroduces invasive weeds to proven specialist insects from countries where they originated, weakening the competitive advantage these weeds gain from escaping their natural predators in their invaded range. Biocontrol agents are self-sustaining and require little input after they are released, making them a valuable tool in integrated weed management programs.
The Alberta biological control release program started in 2001 as a collaboration between the weed biocontrol research team at Agriculture and AgriFood Canada (AAFC) and seven Agricultural Fieldmen in southern Alberta. Drawing on over 50 years of research screening and establishing specialist biocontrol agents for invasive weeds, the initial weed targeted was leafy surge— an invasive weed from Europe that crowds out native species and produces a sap that is toxic to cattle. Since 2001, the program has expanded to include additional targets, such as houndstongue, Dalmatian toadflax, and knapweeds and has continued to build on AAFC research into new biocontrol agents.
With on-going support from stakeholders, coordination by AISC and research expertise from AAFC, the program has grown from the initial group to collaborate with over 39 different organizations throughout Alberta. Together this partnership has now released and monitored biocontrol agents at over 1,300 locations. Monitoring data collected by the program is reported back to AAFC to improve the implementation of future biocontrol agents.
The program is entirely funded by participants and is operated by AISC as a service for invasive weed managers and landowners to purchase biocontrol agents along with expert consulting on how to most effectively use them.
The program currently offers biocontrol agents for the following invasive weeds:
- Leafy Spurge (Euphorbia esula)
- Dalmatian Toadflax (Linaria dalmatica)
- Houndstongue (Cynoglossum officinale)
- Spotted and Diffuse knapweed (Centaurea maculosa and C. diffusa)
- Russian knapweed (Rhaponticum repens)
A biocontrol agent release costs $900.00 + GST. Included in the cost is a pre-release site visit where AISC staff help select a release location for the agents as well as a site visit in the year following the release to monitor for the establishment of the biocontrol agents.
If you are interested in learning more or ordering biocontrol agents for any of the listed invasive weeds please contact:
Biocontrol Program Coordinator
All photos by Karma Tiberg, courtesy of AAFC, not for re-publication or any other use without express consent of AAFC