Newly Discovered Bug In Michigan Is Hungry For The Invasive Garlic Mustard Plant
An insect from Europe makes its appearance in Michigan. It could help control an invasive plant. Garlic mustard chokes out native plants. The most common way to control garlic mustard is to pull it by hand.
The plant, which tastes like garlic, was once popular in vegetable gardens. But he escaped into the wild.
Chris Evans, University of Illinois
A small patch of ripe garlic mustard, showing its serrated heart-shaped leaves and tiny four-petalled white flowers.
It appears in early spring and grows a little faster than native plants. Thus, it spreads and crowds out native plants along roads, streams and forests. Since there are no native predators, it does not support insects, which in turn support birds and so on through the food web. So it’s not helping Michigan’s ecosystem.
Recently, a small insect from Europe that feeds on garlic mustard has appeared in parts of Michigan. We don’t know how he got here. It was first spotted in Ohio by biologist Rebecah Troutman in 2021.
The European garlic mustard aphid (Lipaphis alliarae) may act as a natural deterrent to the spread of garlic mustard in Michigan and elsewhere. But there are concerns.
“Biocontrol has a spotty history, doesn’t it? Where sometimes we let out a species that we think will help and that ends up doing more damage. Since this is not a species that we introduced on purpose, at this point we need to gather a lot more information,” said Katie Grzesiak, terrestrial invasive species coordinator for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. .
It’s too early to be sure, but it looks like the aphid just wants to munch on some garlic mustard.
“We don’t have a lot of native plants that are very close to garlic mustard. And often these little insects are really very closely tied to their specific food sources,” Grzesiak said.