Fighting invasive species with biocontrol in Carbon County
RAWLINS, Wyo. — Since the early 1980s, Carbon County Weed and Pest District has implemented biocontrol as invasive species management for its integrated weed control program.
Invasive species pose a severe risk to native plants and wildlife throughout Wyoming and Carbon County. They can quickly take over an area, push out naturally occurring plants, decrease habitat, and forage for wildlife and livestock, which ruins the environment. Many different control options, such as biocontrol, are used to combat these invasive species.
Biocontrol is the control and reduction of invasive weeds and pests by naturally occurring enemies. Species used for biocontrol are harmless to native species or wildlife and go through rigorous research and approval before being released into an environment.
J Sheehan, assistant supervisor for CCWP, said that educating landowners, government agencies, and recreationists about biocontrol is a large part of its success.
“While it isn’t a silver bullet, biocontrol is an effective and viable option for invasive weed management, especially when it’s used with other methods like herbicides,” Sheehan stated. “It takes a lot of time and commitment, but we’ve seen it work throughout the county for many different species.”
Today, CCWP has many successful biocontrol programs using weevils, flies and fungus that target seven different invasive species:
- Musk Thistle
- Leafy Spurge
- Yellow Toadflax
- Spotted Knapweed
- Canada Thistle
- Poison Hemlock
- Common Mullein
The first use of biocontrol in Carbon County occurred during an outbreak of musk thistle in the Encampment and Baggs areas in the early 1980s. Because of the outbreak’s severity, CCWP, the Wyoming Department of Agriculture, and local landowners came together to control the outbreak using herbicides and biocontrol. Two weevils were introduced to fight the invasive weed.
Now, the once out-of-control musk thistle continues to be successfully managed with the weevils and additional herbicide treatments.
“The very first biocontrol we started with is the most successful one,” said Sheehan. “The insects were a perfect match for the climate and elevation in the area. It’s not 100 percent, but it’s in a very manageable situation now where we can control it.”
For more information about the biocontrol program or to get involved, contact Carbon County Weed and Pest. For tips to stop the spread of invasive species or for details about the Wyoming Weed and Pest Council, visit wyoweed.org and follow on Facebook and Twitter.