Colorado scientists release lab-raised killer bugs into the wild to fight invasive species

Representational imageVirvoreanu-Laurentiu

Scientists in a laboratory, known as an insectary located in Western Colorado are developing bugs engineered to attack other bugs and invasive plants harmful to agriculture. Colorado's Insectary is the oldest and largest facility of its kind in the entire United States.

Kristi Gladem, a scientist at the insectary, said:

Once they're released, then they can spread naturally, grow their population and provide control. Biological control attempts to reestablish the predator-prey balance of these invasive species. When you reintroduce their predators from where they originally came from, you're tapping into a millennia-long evolutionary arms race where these predators are much better able and capable of suppressing the population of the pest than humans will ever be.

According to scientists at the insectary, each killer bug is studied in controlled field settings for up to 20 years to ensure they don’t prey on other native species. The studies are also monitored by the federal government.

Weevils, midges, beetles, wasps, and fungus make up the insectary’s nearly 20 biocontrol agents, sent on long-term experiments across the state of Colorado. Experiments are currently underway on an agent to attack the emerald ash borer, which has invaded ash trees on the Front Range and across the U.S.

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