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    Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries
    The Honourable Leanne Donaldson

    Sap-sucking bugs to help farmers combat coral cactus

    Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries
    The Honourable Leanne Donaldson

    Tuesday, March 29, 2016

    Sap-sucking bugs to help farmers combat coral cactus

    Sap-sucking bugs, specially bred in Queensland with the express purpose of controlling the destructive coral cactus, are to be released in Australia for the first time in Longreach.

    Agriculture Minister Leanne Donaldson says scientists are confident the cochineal insect offers the best chance of combatting the weed which is a threat to grazing industries and is invading much of western Queensland.

    “The coral cactus is a significant pest that can form dense infestations,” Minister Donaldson said.

    “Its sharp spines are a threat to farmers, livestock and working animals such as dogs and horses and it is a Weed of National Significance that can reduce access to feed and hinder mustering activities.

    “Biosecurity Queensland has advised me that conventional methods of control for cactus, such as herbicides and burning, can be ineffective and expensive and they are not considered feasible on a large scale.

    “That is why they will mass-rearing large quantities of cochineal insects in laboratories as a prelude to a targeted release on infested land.

    “The program starts near Longreach on 30 March and over the next few months there will be releases of the bugs around Charleville, Hebel, Emerald and Cloncurry.”

    Minister Donaldson said the Palaszczuk Government was working collaboratively with the Federal and New South Wales governments and Meat and Livestock Australia on a biocontrol program similar to one now successfully controlling coral cactus in South Africa and Zimbabwe.

    “The program cost has cost approximately $500,000 so far, but the benefits are expected to far exceed that,” the Minister said.

    Michael Day, senior entomologist from Biosecurity Queensland said the insect was highly damaging to cactus.

    “It is hoped it will provide much needed relief to land managers who are experiencing major infestations on their properties in Queensland,” he said.

    The cochineal insects are sap-sucking bugs that feed and complete their life cycle on cactus plants. No other plant species will be affected.

    Biosecurity Queensland will provide cultures to other states where coral cactus is a problem as part of a national program.

    ENDS

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