Insect army winning fight against invasive water hyacinth

Bite by bite, the army of tiny goggas that have been deliberately released at the polluted Hartbeespoort Dam to tackle the infestation of water hyacinth are winning the battle.

By 6 April, the water hyacinth planthoppers, Megamelus scutellaris, had whittled down the cover of the invasive superweeds on Hartbeespoort Dam to 12.5% from more than 40% in February.

Julie Coetzee, the director of the nonprofit Centre for Biological Control (CBC) at Rhodes University, expects this figure to hover below 5% by month-end. “The plants have been decimated by the control agents and are dying, leaving open water in their wake.”

In December, the Mail & Guardian reported on the CBC’s biological control of water hyacinth — named the world’s worst aquatic weed — using the water hyacinth hopper, a programme that’s been running since 2018. 

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Sheree Bega
Sheree Bega is an environment reporter at the Mail & Guardian.

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