Recently identified bug could help win the war against invasive garlic mustard in the Midwest

Polarbear

Garlic mustard, originally from Europe and Asia, has become a very troublesome invasive plant across the Midwest. Introduced originally as a food plant, this species is now a serious concern in forests across Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Ohio.

Garlic mustard is a threat to the forest ecosystems outcompeting understory plants including tree seedlings. Garlic mustard produces allelopathic compounds that can limit seed germination in other species.

Researchers have found a new, weapon in the fight against the invasive species: garlic mustard aphids. Because these aphids may help control invasive garlic mustard plants, there is an effort to map their distribution across the Midwest. The aphid seems to negatively affect the plants by creating twisted seed pods (siliques) and a wrinkled effect on the leaves.

Michelle Beloskur, Midwest Invasive Plant Network Coordinator, said:

They can actually prevent saplings from regenerating and other native species from growing in those areas. Anytime you have one species dominating, which invasive are really good at doing, you lose biodiversity, right, and then you lose habitat for anything else up the food chain. Although it has not been fully proven, evidence shows these aphids might serve as a new weapon against garlic mustard. We're interested in learning how widespread these aphids might be and learning more about them.

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