Questions:

What else do these bugs eat besides the weed they are trying to control?

 

How many insects do I need?

 

Do I need to buy more insects every year and do they die in the winter?

 

Is there a certain time of the year to release the insects?

 

How do I release the insects?

 

Will these insects become a pest themselves? Do they sting or bite and will they get in my house?

 

How long will it take before all the weeds are gone and what happens to the bugs then?

Can I keep these insects on my property?

Are there any special legal requirements regarding the release of these insects?

Can I use herbicides with these insects?

Can I see examples of where these biocontrols have really worked?

If biocontrol is such a good idea why isn't everybody doing it already?

Answers:

What else do these bugs eat besides the weed they are trying to control? 

Nothing; before the insects are approved for release in the United States they must undergo extensive testing to ensure they are "host specific" meaning they feed only on the weed they are targeted for and they will starve to death before they feed on any other plant. All biological controls must be approved by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal Plant Health Inspection Service, (APHIS) prior to release. There are many insects that are not allowed into the United States as a biocontrol because their host range is too broad, i.e. they may feed on some of our native plants. Insects like this are not suitable as biocontrol agents. All our insects are collected in the state of Montana. We do not import any insects from outside the United States.

 

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 How many insects do I need?

That is not an easy question to answer. You need enough insects to have a high probability that they will become established. After that, it really comes down to how much money does a landowner want to spend and how soon do you want to see results. More insects up front will give you results sooner. Once a population of insects is established they will spread until they run out of their host plant. If a land owner wants to have the insects present across all of their property within a couple of years, it may be necessary to make several releases. Different species of insects spread at differing rates as some fly while others are flightless. We will be glad to work with you and tailor a plan for your property that meets your unique needs.

 

Do I need to buy more insects every year and do they die in the winter?

No, that is one of the great things about biocontrol. All of the insects that we supply are adapted to cold climates. The insects survive the winter, reproduce, and spread out. A release of a hundred insects can turn into millions of insects in just a few years. Not every release of insects may establish itself on the first try, you may need to make another release to get your colony going, but once established they are there for good.

 

Is there a certain time of the year to release the insects?

Yes, each species of insect has a very narrow window of opportunity when it can be collected and transported, generally about six to eight weeks in length. The different species all are available at their own unique times between May and September.

 

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 How do I release the insects?

It's really very simple. Each container of insects you receive should be released in one spot so the insects can easily find each other to mate and reproduce. Do not spread them out one bug here, one bug there. Just dump the insects out on their host weed and they will take it from there. Some of the species prefer the weeds a little thinner, so just to be safe you can place the insects on the edge of a thick weed patch and let the bugs move into it at their own rate. Avoid releasing the insects next to an ant hill as ants are predators to some of the smaller species of biocontrols. Also avoid releasing the insects if it is very cold as low temperature makes the insects lethargic, and more subject to predation.

 

 

Will these insects become a pest themselves? Do they sting or bite and will they get in my house?

No, you will probably never even notice the insects unless you really go looking for them. You probably don't know this, but there are millions of insects of various species out on your property right now, most of which you never see. None of the insects we handle sting or bite. Since they only eat the weed they are targeted for, there really isn't anything in the house they would be interested in, (unless you have a bouquet of noxious weeds sitting on the kitchen table). You may occasionally see one of the larger insects we handle, the knapweed root weevil, sunning itself on a fence post or the railing around your porch. If you see one there, make sure to thank them for the good job they are doing on controlling your knapweed!

 

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How long will it take before all the weeds are gone and what happens to the bugs then?

OK, slow down there weedfighter. Biocontrol will never eradicate any weed species. Since the insects feed only on the weed they are targeted for they will never eradicate their only host. They will reduce the plant to a low level in the ecosystem, come into equilibrium with the weed and then maintain it at a low level permanently. There will always be some of the weed present and there will always be some insects present. Some species of biocontrols also have a much greater impact on the weed than others. It generally takes several years before biocontrols cause a noticeable impact on weed density. This will depend on the species of biocontrol and weed involved, size of the infestation, number of insects released, other biocontrols present and the unique characteristics of each site. The insects all have certain site characteristics that they prefer and they may not do as well on one site as they do another. Again we will be glad to assist you in determining what has the best chance of success for your property. The most important thing to remember is this: Biological control is a long term, permanent solution to your weed problem, not a quick fix. You need to be patient and not get out the herbicides if you don't see any change after two years. It's working, it just takes time.

 

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 Can I keep these insects on my property?

No. They fly, they walk, they hop and they will spread onto your neighbor's property whether you want them to or not. This isn't a bad thing as the insects will control your neighbor's weeds too. They will keep on spreading until they run out of their host plant. However there will always be plenty of insects that remain on your land to keep the weeds under control permanently. This is a good reason to get your neighbors involved in helping to purchase biocontrols with you, as all the adjacent landowners will benefit.

 

Are there any special legal requirements regarding the release of these insects?

In some cases there are. A permit from the Animal Plant Health Inspection Service, (APHIS) is required if the insects are transported across state lines. We hold permits on behalf of our customers for 30 states, so no federal paperwork is required; we have already done it for you. A copy of this permit must accompany the insects when shipped and the insects may only be released in the state they are shipped to. All of our insects are collected and shipped from Montana so no permit is required for shipments within the state of Montana as the insects do not cross a state line. Some states, such as Wisconsin and New York also require state permits prior to releasing these insects. This is the landowner's responsibility. We will provide you with the forms and assist in completing them, but we cannot acquire the state permits for you. Most states do not require state level permits for release.

 

Can I use herbicides with these insects?

Well it depends how you do it. Herbicides will not kill the insects outright. Herbicides kill plants not bugs. However if you kill the insect's host at a stage when it is feeding inside the plant and dependent on the weed for it's survival, you will indirectly kill the insect. Some people use herbicides around the perimeter of a weed infestation to prevent it from spreading while the biocontrols begin to control the weed in the middle of the patch. Some people also use herbicides next to their house where they do not want any weeds present but then let the bugs handle the weeds away from the house. Another technique some people use is to spray most of their weeds to get an immediate reduction but to leave a small area unsprayed and release biocontrols there, sort of a bug refuge area. The insects will build up in this area and as the herbicide wears off and weeds return to the sprayed area, the insects will expand out of the refuge and control the weeds as they try to reestablish themselves in the sprayed area.

(Contact www.wmaspecialists.com for herbicide application in western Montana.)

 

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Can I see examples of where these biocontrols have really worked?

Absolutely, we collect most of our insects near Missoula, Montana. We will be pleased to show off several of our collection sites where biocontrol has caused a sharp decline in Knapweed, Leafy Spurge and Dalmatian Toadflax.

 

If biocontrol is such a good idea why isn't everybody doing it already?

Well, that's a good question. Lots of people have used it and more people are trying it every year. There are lots of things for a person to learn in this world and it takes awhile to find out about some things. Our past customers include the US Forest Service, the US Fish and Wildlife Service, the Bureau of Land Management, Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks, several county and city governments and nearly 1,000 private landowners who own from 1 acre to 15,000 acres. So while everybody isn't using it, (at least not yet) lots of people are.

 

Contact us at (406)251-4261 for more answers.

 

 

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