Feds propose unleashing Asian insects to fight invasive Chinese tallow tree spreading in Alabama


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The Chinese tallow tree was introduced into the United States from China in 1776 by Ben Franklin. It was distributed in the states of Alabama and Texas by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in an attempt to establish a soap making industry. It's also called the popcorn tree because of the white, waxy tallow substance on its fruit that kind of looks like popcorn.

The tree can produce up to 100,000 seeds every year that crowd out other plants and take over vast areas of woodlands quickly. U.S. Department of Agriculture is currently evaluating a proposal to release two insects from Asia – a moth and a beetle (Bikasha collaris and Gadirtha fusca) - that are natural predators for the tallow tree.

The proposal has drawn substantial opposition from beekeepers and honey producers. American Honey Producers Association said in a statement:

The tallow tree is valuable forage for honey bees in the southeastern states and our members remain concerned about the potential impact the release of these biocontrol agents could have on the livelihood of our America’s beekeepers and the billions of dollars in agricultural output that depend on their pollination services.

U.S. Department of Agriculture has said that the proposal remains under consideration and no final decision has been taken yet.

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