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SAIPAN, CNMI (Saipan Tribune, April 21) - The plan to release a
beetle as bio-control agent against the noxious ivy gourd is underway, with the
Department of Lands and Natural Resources disclosing that this is possible next
month or in June.

DLNR's special assistant for public information Marianne
Teregeyo said the U.S. Department of Agriculture is currently asking for
comments on the release of Acythopeus cocciniae, which is commonly known as ivy
gourd leafmining weevil. The deadline for submission of public comments expires
after May 8.

As this developed, DLNR Secretary Tom Pangelinan urged Gov. Juan
N. Babauta and House Speaker Heinz F. Hofschneider to support the plan.

"DLNR would like the Legislature to pass a house resolution
supporting the field release, and would also like the Governor to submit a
letter of support," Teregeyo said.

Teregeyo quoted Pangelinan relating Hawaii's experience in
battling the spread of ivy gourd using the same agent. About two years after the
release of the weevil, canopies of ivy gourd were eradicated and the vegetation
quickly recovered.

Pangelinan added that the weevil population in Hawaii decreased
significantly after the reduction of their food source, the invasive vine.

"DLNR hopes this will be the same result for Saipan, Tinian
and Rota, and [portions of the] Northern Islands, [which] were recently
discovered to have pioneer colonies of scarlet [or ivy] gourd," Teregeyo

Ivy gourd is an African vine of the melon family Cucurbitacae,
which was allegedly smuggled to Saipan in the 1990s. The vine destroys any
living matter underneath it, according to an entomologist from the Northern
Marianas College's Cooperative Research, Education and Extension Service. This
is why the vine needs to be wiped out.

According to the Department of Agriculture in Hawaii, the larvae
of the weevil mine through leaves, while adults feed on the leaves, producing a
"shot-hole" appearance. "Through defoliation, the ivy gourd vine
is weakened reducing its growth ability."

The agency said the beetle was the third of three insects
approved for release to control the proliferation of ivy gourd several years
ago. Based on its studies, one moth and two weevils specifically feasted on the
harmful vine, "only surviving or attacking the ivy gourd plant."

April 21, 2003

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