Non-native pests can be very destructive when introduced to new areas because those new areas lack the predatory insects and diseases that limit the pest populations in their native environments.
Biological control reunites natural enemies, such as insects and pathogens, with the target pest to minimize pest damage. The goal of biological control is to reduce the target pest population and its corresponding impact to an acceptable level. Before any insect or pathogen is considered a viable candidate for biological control, scientists study it carefully to make sure it will not harm people or the environment.
Advantages of biological control
- Cost effective: bioagents can control vast expanses of target pests. Through state and county programs in Minnesota, bioagents are a shared resource available at no cost to land managers. They are collected at sites with high bioagent populations and distributed to new sites.
- Long term, sustainable management: Established bioagent populations are self-sustaining and provide ongoing pest management.
- Selective: the bioagents are very specific to the target pest and beneficial to the environment by reducing the pest population so that the desirable flora and fauna can flourish.
- All bioagents approved for release will not harm humans and can be handled easily.
- A process of testing and assessment minimizes the risk that a newly imported bioagent will have a negative impact on other species.
State of Minnesota biological control programs
Biological control programs in Minnesota are cooperative. Multiple agencies, associations, institutions, and private landowners work together to accomplish goals. Lead agencies help to coordinate efforts, disseminate information, provide expertise, and collect data.
The Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) leads weed biocontrol for two species, leafy spurge and spotted knapweed. For purple loosestrife biocontrol, please visit the DNR's page for more information.