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Island alert to Brazilian pepper tree control

Risky proposition: the Brazilian pepper

The Government will have an eye on Florida as the state tests the use of insects to tackle Brazilian pepper trees.

The invasive weed was introduced to both Bermuda and the United States as an ornamental plant, but is now considered a threat to biodiversity because of its fast growth and prolific seed production.

Florida is considering introducing two “host specific” species of insect, yellow Brazilian pepper tree leaf-gallers and Brazilian pepper tree thrips, to tackle the problem.

Both species, native to Brazil, feed and lay their eggs on Brazilian pepper trees, which inhibits their group and hinders the population. In previous studies, both insects largely avoided other plants even when there were no Brazilian pepper trees around.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Environment and Natural Resources said results of the work being done in Florida would be monitored.

She said: “This plant has become one of Bermuda’s most noxious and invasive tree species. With various biological controls emerging, as well as those agents currently under assessment, the DENR is conducting ongoing research in pursuit of introducing biocontrol organisms which will be most beneficial to the cause without putting Bermuda at risk.

“The department will be interested in the results of the work being conducted in the United States.”