The city plans to use a horde of sesame-sized beetles to attack an invasive plant known as the mile-a-minute vine that is consuming park and forests in the Bronx, Queens and Staten Island, according to a published report.
Weevils, which can spend their entire life cycles on the mile-a-minute vine, a plant native to Asia that can grow 20 feet in one season, have been used to combat the invasive species that has threatened ecosystems from North Carolina to Ohio.
The city has tried using herbicides on a restricted basis and volunteers to hand weed the vine since discovering it in the Bronx's Pelham Bay Park about seven years ago, but those methods have had limited success in curbing the plant's spread.
Experts in wildlife ecology tell the Times it's believed seeds from the mile-a-minute vine got into a shipment of holly seeds in Japan that was sent to Pennsylvania. From there, the invasive species, encouraged by a lack of predators in its non-native environment, spread, strangling saplings, disturbing growth and causing the death of mature trees along the East Coast and in several states west, the Times says.
Soil disturbances facilitate its spread, experts say, and given the number of those caused by Sandy and other severe weather in New York, an aggressive approach to killing it is critical to avoid further damage to native species.
The weevils that will be assigned the task in New York were bred at a laboratory in West Trenton, N.J.
"The term 'forest restoration' begs the question -- what are you restoring to? The point isn't to go back; the point is to go forward," Katerli Bounds, director of forest restoration for the city's Department of Parks and Recreation, told the Times. "We know that we can't eradicate all invasive plants, but what we can do is hold them at bay long enough for the native populations to build back up again."