(Adapted from a paper by P. Gillespie and H. Klein, presented at the XI
International Symposium on Biological Control of Weeds, held at CSIRO
Entomology, Canberra, Australia, 27April-2 May 2003)
A partnership has been formed between the Weeds Research Division of ARC-PPRI
and the Working for Water (WfW) Programme, to ensure the optimal implementation
of the products of biocontrol research. The Biocontrol Implementation arm of WfW
focuses on the distribution of biocontrol agents for invasive alien plants and
the integration of biocontrol into all alien plant clearing programmes. For this
purpose, WfW appointed six regional Biological Control Implementation (BCI) Officers who
liaise with biocontrol researchers, agricultural departments, the forestry
industry and biodiversity managers, ensuring biocontrol agents are distributed
to the extent of their ecological ranges. The programme also raises awareness of
the effective and safe use of biocontrol.
The BCI programme relies on close co-operation and information exchange
between biocontrol researchers of the ARC-PPRI and the BCI officers. Once
permission is obtained to release a new biocontrol agent, the responsible
researcher and regional BCI officers collaborate on the first releases and plan
a mass-rearing and release strategy for the agent. Once established in the
field, the distribution and establishment of the agent across the country is
managed by the BCI programme.
Information sheets are produced about the biocontrol agents, their
mass-rearing and integration into alien plant clearing programmes, for use by
all weed controllers and interested members of the public.
After release from quarantine, insects are usually mass-reared in the
regional BCI centres on potted plants in shade houses, or in insectaries using
cut sprigs of plants as a food source. Once it is possible to collect a
biocontrol agent species more easily from an established field site than it is
to mass-rear it, mass-rearing is usually discontinued.
Certain biocontrol agents, particularly those insects that lay their eggs on
the immature fruit or seeds of large, woody trees, cannot be mass-reared in a
laboratory situation. As most of the agents used in the Western Cape region fall
into this category, the Western Cape BCI centre currently has no facilities for
mass-rearing, but relies on field-collection as a source of insects for
redistribution. Collecting times for seed or fruit-feeding agents are seasonal
and provide temporary employment for small collection teams who might normally
be employed by WfW for the chemical or manual control of weeds.
Highly mobile biocontrol insects are often so widely dispersed that suitable
collecting sites can easily be found. Others, such as stem-boring beetles,
reproduce slowly and often have a restricted distribution. Their breeding sites
are valuable sources of insects for redistribution, and need to be protected.
These sites are registered as "biocontrol reserves" (discussed later).
During the 3 years up to 2002, some 12.6 million individuals of 30 species of
biocontrol agents were distributed in South Africa against 22 weed species.
The BCI programme aims to distribute available biocontrol agents throughout
their ecological range, to as many target weed infestations as possible. Whether
releases are made on private or public land, the BCI officer consults with the
land manager to ensure that the chosen site does not clash with other land-use
priorities. Land owners are informed of the need to protect the site for a
number of years to ensure establishment and natural spread of the insects.
The BCI programme aims to have biocontrol operating in all catchments,
whether or not WfW is actively clearing weeds there. Biocontrol could suppress
weeds in low priority areas that have no other long-term weed management plan,
thereby giving WfW a 'presence' in the catchment. In catchments where WfW
manages weed clearing operations, the BCI programme aims to incorporate
biocontrol into these operations, providing an ongoing legacy of weed
suppression. BCI officers liaise with clearing managers to ensure that suitable
pockets of weeds are left to ensure the continued presence of the biocontrol
agents. Guidelines are prepared to aid land managers in this respect.
The Conservation of Agricultural Resources Act, 1983 (Act 43 of 1983) (CARA),
administered by the National Department of Agriculture (NDA), recognises
effective biocontrol as a valid control method and protects such sites from
disturbance. CARA allows important biocontrol agent nursery sites to be
registered as biocontrol reserves, protecting them from clearing.
When biocontrol agents are released, an undertaking is signed between the
land user and WfW. It requires the land user to protect the agents for a maximum
of 5 years or until notification by WfW, and protects the land user from
prosecution by NDA. By applying biocontrol in parts of a weed infestation, land
users are not absolved of their weed management obligations in surrounding
infestations. NDA is notified of all biocontrol agent releases, and once
established, the release site can be registered with NDA as a biocontrol
All biocontrol agent release sites are recorded on a standard release form
which includes global positioning system (GPS) coordinates, site descriptions,
land managers involved, infestation characteristics, weather data and numbers of
insects released. During post-release monitoring sessions, information regarding
insect numbers and damage to the infestation is recorded. This information is
stored on the WfW information management system as well as being sent to
relevant researchers and NDA. The BCI programme produces maps upon request
showing established release sites.
The web-based database was established to store the BCI data. Different types
of information is available to registered users depending on the their
requirements. All users have access to regional maps showing release points,
what has been released and when. Biocontrol researchers are given detailed site
references and data about release conditions and site monitoring. This web site
will provide a useful tool for evaluating the effectiveness of biocontrol of
alien plants in South Africa.
The BCI programme has united all organisations involved with weed control in
a single forum, co-ordinating their activities, and avoiding duplication or
counter-productive actions. Apart from biocontrol researchers, the following
organisations participate in these Technical Liaison Committees:
National Department of Agriculture (NDA): administers the CARA regulations
dealing with weeds, recognizing and protecting biocontrol. It is responsible for
law enforcement and advice on weed control methods and has taken part in the
development of the BCI programme, including the funding of a technical officer
position in one region
The forestry industry: As a major weed manager, the industry has a financial
interest in the success of the WfW programme. SAPPI (South African Pulp and
Paper Industries), SAFCOL (South African state forestry organisation) and Mondi
actively participated in the BCI programme development in three regions, and
manage a number of insectaries for the programme
The South Africa National Parks or equivalent nature conservation
organisations: contribute actively to planning the release programmes
Private conservancy or "Landcare"-type groups, municipalities and private
Ninety percent of WfW staff have low levels of formal education and technical
expertise. They initially feared that biocontrol agents would kill all the
weeds, and that their jobs would then be terminated. Another misconception,
especially among managers, concerned host specificity of biocontrol agents,
because they were unaware of the strict protocols followed in releasing
The training programme aims to provide a more rational understanding of
biocontrol and how, by focusing clearing programmes on weed species not under
biocontrol, it may be used to better achieve weed management goals. Training is
provided to WfW personnel at all levels, from contractors in charge of clearing
teams to management. Other partnership organisations have also requested
training for their employees on the role of the BCI programme and how they could
co-operate. BCI officers deliver the training, with supportfrom biocontrol
Approximately 400 people have attended one of 14 half-day biocontrol
information sessions held by 2002. The theory of biocontrol was outlined, how it
is applied in South Africa and how biocontrol can be integrated into the alien
plant-clearing programme without affecting jobs. Demonstrations using live
insects or pathogens and the plant damage they cause generated much interest.
Course notes were issued to each participant, containing examples of release
site maps, data record sheets and illustrated colour brochures on biocontrol
agents and their associated weed damage.
Informal surveys indicated that there was a much greater acceptance and
willingness to co-operate with the BCI programme after these training
An important component of the BCI programme is providing the public with
information relating to the use of biocontrol of invading alien plants. The
interest in biocontrol generated by this extension activity provided the BCI
programme with excellent release sites across the country.
Regional BCI officers are often invited to speak about their programmes at
local farmers' days, schools and conservancy meetings. The BCI programme is
represented in all WfW public displays and publications. A set of 26 colour
brochures on biocontrol agents has been well received by the public and WfW