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New insect predator unleashed on boxing glove cactus

A new insect predator has been unleashed on invasive cactus infestations in Western NSW.

The bio-control agent, a type of cochineal insect, will specifically target boxing glove cactus, also known as coral cactus, or Cylindropuntia fulgida.

This particularly unpleasant weed can injure both people and animals with its sharp thorns, reduces livestock access to pastures, and displaces native plant species.

Local Land Services Western Region has released the cochineal insect biotype, Dactylopius tomentosus, into a substantial population of boxing glove cactus in the north west corner of NSW near Tibooburra.

“While bio-controls have been present in cactus populations for many years, individual agents are often very specific to particular cactus species,” reported Senior Land Services Officer, Mitch Plumbe.

“Until now, we have not had a cochineal compatible with boxing glove cactus, so this presents a great opportunity to introduce an additional control method to complement other cactus control programs already in place across the region,” said Mr Plumbe.

“Reports from releases in South Africa as well as early reports from similar trials in Queensland have been very positive so we are hopeful of some good results at this site in Western NSW.”

“We have chosen this site for the primary release of the new cochineal biotype because it has greater density than other boxing glove cactus infestations in this region.”

“By releasing at this site, the cochineal will have the best chance of establishment and rapid reproduction. Once a source population has been established, we will be able to use material from this location to infect additional sites.”

The identification and release of the new cochineal biotype is the result of many years of research conducted primarily by the NSW Department of Primary Industries.

“The former Western Catchment Management Authority also contributed to the funding and development of the initial work on this species back in 2012,” said Mr Plumbe.

“These projects take a long time to progress from development to release so it is great to see the investments made by the Western CMA now coming to fruition and benefiting the region.”

“The initial release site will be monitored by Local Land Services and the Department of Primary Industries in cooperation with the landholder.”

“Colonisation success will become apparent over the next six months, while the results of overall efficacy will be seen as time progresses,” said Mr Plumbe.

For more information about the boxing glove cactus project contact Mitch Plumbe at the Broken Hill office of Local Land Services Western on: 08 8082 5204.

Media contact: Charlie Whiteley - 02 5852 1207