Water Chestnut Biological Control

In 2014 partners of the SLELO PRISM submitted a request to the New York State Invasive Species Coordination Unit and the NYS Invasive Species Council to prioritize research on the biocontrol of water chestnut (Trapa natans). This request was approved and to date the research has made great advances with the arrival of several hundred potential biocontrol agents, Galerucella birmanica, at Cornell University from the Wuhan region of China. The beetles were hand collected in the field by the project’s principle investigator Dr. Bernd Blossey of Cornell University, and Chinese collaborator 

Dr. Jianqing Ding of the Wuhan Botanical Garden. Upon arriving in the US, the biocontrol candidates were transported to Cornell’s Sarkaria Arthropod Research Laboratory (SARL), a quarantine facility where experiments can be conducted without risking the escape of beetles into the wild. Dr. Blossey and his research team (which includes Dr. Andrea Davalos and several research assistants) have been preparing for the arrival of G. birmanica since last fall. Water chestnut plants have been propagated in outdoor tanks to provide a reliable source of food for the beetle colony while in the quarantine facility.

Over the next several months, Dr. Blossey’s team will conduct a series of experiments, including host-specificity tests to determine whether these beetles are able to feed and/or develop on any plants other than water chestnut. This is a key requirement of the biocontrol approval process. During these experiments, G. birmanica adults and larvae will be offered native plants and plants of economic importance in a series of feeding tests and observations will be recorded. These results will be the backbone of an application for field release to federal and state authorities should G. birmanica be considered sufficiently host specific. Preliminary tests conducted by our collaborator Dr. Ding indicate that G. birmanica is highly specific to water chestnut, and we are hopeful that this will hold true in our coming experiments. This research is supported by EPF funds administered through the NYDEC and has been endorsed by the SLELO PRISM as a research priority. ~Audrey Bowe, Research Assistant.

Photo: Rob Williams and Carrie Brown Lima visiting the Cornell Lab

Share on facebook

Prevent the introduction of invasive species into the SLELO PRISM.

Rapidly detect new and recent invaders and eliminate all individuals within a specific area.

Share resources, including funding personnel, equipment, information, and expertise.

Collect, utilize, and share information regarding surveys, infestations, control methods, monitoring, and research.

Control invasive species infestations by using best management practices, methods and techniques to include: ERADICATION (which is to eliminate all individuals and the seed bank from an area), CONTAINMENT (which is reducing the spread of established infestations from entering an uninfested area) and SUPPRESSION which is to reduce the density but not necessarily the total infested area.

Develop and implement effective restoration methods for areas that have been degraded by invasive species and where suppression or control has taken place.

Increase public awareness and understanding of invasive species.

Develop and implement innovative technologies that help us to better understand, visualize, alleviate or manage invasive species and their impacts or that serve to strengthen ecosystem function and/or processes.

Rob Williams
PRISM Coordinator

Megan Pistolese
Outreach and Education

Brittney Rogers
Aquatic Invasive Species

Robert Smith
Terrestrial Invasive Species