Foster Creek Conservation District
Foster Creek Conservation District


FCCD Biological Weed Control Program


Invasive weed species in Douglas County can cause loss of wildlife habitat, biodiversity, and increased costs to the agricultural community.


In 2000, FCCD began partnering with Washington State University Extension to identify the major invasive weeds within Douglas County to begin distributing biological control insects to help control their populations.  Pictured to the right is Mecinus janthiniformis, the main agent to control Dalmatian toadflax. 



We are pleased to announce that after 12 years of distributing over 299,300 bioagents to cooperators in the County, the program will have a new approach, beginning in Spring 2020.   


Question: How will the program change?

Answer: We will no longer be taking orders to supply biocontrols, unless it is an exceptional circumstance.  The exception is for land owners and managers in the northern portion of Douglas County that have recently been hit by a wildfire or that have expressed an interest in, and agree to, trialing bioagents that not currently found throughout Douglas County.  Land owners and managers that meet the exceptions guidelines will receive bioagents at no cost supplied by WSU's Integrated Weed Control Project


Obtaining complimentary bioagents will involve a site visit with a FCCD staff member during the release, an annual fixed photo point to monitor the infestation and weed control progress for approximately 5 years, and submitting in a 2-page release form. 


Question: A wildfire recently burned my property and I am worried noxious weed will dominate the landscape, what can I do?

Answer: Call our office as soon as possible to receive bioagents.  The sooner you make us aware that you have need for bioagents, the quicker our staff can alert WSU's Integrated Weed Control Project to supply your property with bioagents at no cost to you.  Typically, bioagents are delivered from April to June, but exceptions have been encountered.  


Question: Which biocontrol agent and noxious weed will be impacted the most with the change in this program?

Answer: Land owners and managers that received large quantities of Mecinus janthiniformis, the bioagent for Dalmatian toadflax will be impacted the most.  This bioagent is ubiquitous throughout Douglas County, therefore, it is very likely that you already have established populations on your property.  The program's new approach involves finding and relocating these existing populations, saving you money in the end. 


Question: Do I have another option?

Answer:  Yes!  In most cases, our staff can provide technical assistance to land owners and managers about how to find biocontrol populations on their land.  From there, our staff can provide advice on how to relocate the densest biocontrol populations to new sites.  Once you have scouted your fields, this new method requires anywhere from a few hours to a full day of your time to collect and redistribute the bioagents, depending on the infestation size and the time of year.  Redistributing biocontrol populations that are already established on your property will save you money and allow you to be more in-tune with the location of your biocontrol populations.  The new program's approach encourages the participation of youth (grades K-12) to learn more about the family farm. 

Contact our office to schedule an appointment, (509) 888 - 6372.


Question: Which biocontrol agents require WSU trial plots? 

Answer: Currently, we are seeking land owners and managers that operate in the Foster Creek District that wish to trial Russian knapweed bioagents, such as Aulacidea acroptilonica, a gall forming wasp, and Jaapiella ivannikovi, a shoot-tip gall midge.  In addition, we are seeking trial plots for a root rust fungus, Puccinia punctiformis, to combat Canada thistle. 


Volunteering for a trial plot involves a site visit with a FCCD staff member during the release, an annual fixed photo point and transect to monitor the infestation and progress for approximately 5 years, and submitting in a 2-page release form.  FCCD staff can provide this training.  Contact our office, (509) 888 - 6372, if you are interested in hosting a monitoring plot. 


Question: How will the program stay the same?

Answer: Our staff can provide technical assistance and expertise to control a variety of noxious weeds found on your property.  This involves a request and permission for one of our staff members to view the site(s) of interest, document the infestation, and draft an integrated pest management plan to reduce and/or eliminate the weeds.  



The former program offered biocontrol orders that came prepared in small, presorted containers, making for an easy in-the-field release.  Clients were requested to return these containers for future releases, but are now encouraged to keep them to help relocate biocontrol insects to new infestation sites. 




Before ordering more biocontrols, be sure to scout your fields - you likely already have a population established.  This image shows the bioagent, Mecinus janthiniformis, ready to overwinter in a Dalmatian toadflax stem.  Scouting allows you to locate and collect the most dense biocontrol insect populations while determining new sites to relocate a portion of the biocontrol population to continue combating noxious weed growth.  


What is a noxious weed?

"Noxious Weed" is the traditional, legal term for invasive plants that are so aggressive they harm our local ecosystems or disrupt agricultural production. These plants crowd out the native species that fish and wildlife depend on. They also cost farmers millions of dollars in control efforts and lost production.


The term "noxious weed" includes non-native invasive plants, shrubs, and trees that grow on land, in wetlands, lakes, streams, or on shorelines.

Dalmation Toadflax
Canada Thistle
Common Mullein
Diffuse Knapweed

How do noxious weeds spread?

Wherever people travel, we take plants and seeds with us - sometimes intentionally, sometimes accidentally. When settlers first came to Washington, they accidentally brought seeds of Canada Thistle with them - a plant that is still a problem for farmers today.


Early settlers also brought scotch broom as an ornamental garden plant. In fact, about half of the invasive, noxious weeds in Washington are "escapees" from gardens. Cars, cargo ships, hiking boots, and even bicycle tires can all spread weed seeds, so more people travel and trade, the more likely we are to acidentlaly spread weed seeds.


Wildlife and domesticated animals also spread seeds either through their digestive systems or when seeds are carried in their fur.

Biological Weed Control...

Biological weed control is the "act of bringing back together the weed and its natural enemies". Only the biocontrol insects, which have run the gauntlet of the USDA tests, and demonstrated that they will starve rather than eat anything but their weed host are released.


Beneficial insects can manage your weeds when you have other things to do, but should be integrated with other week control methods for best results. The use of a biological control is a long-term method for weed management.


Anticipate results in three to five years.  An established biocontrol population for 5+ years in an infested area will yield greater results.  


FCCD can provide beneficial insects for:

  • Dalmation toadflax - agent Mecinus janthiniformis, foliage feeding/stem boring beetle
  • Diffuse, spotted, & meadow knapweed - agent Larinus minutus, seed eating beetle
  • Common mullein - agent Rhinusa (=Gymnetron) tetrum, seed eating beetle
  • Canada thistle - agent Urophora cardui, stem gall fly
  • Russian knapweed - agent Aulacidea acroptilonica, gall forming wasp or agent Jaapiella ivannikovi, shoot-tip gall midge (prefers moist areas throughout the growing season)
  • And more!


**We will no longer be providing the seed eating beetle for Canada thistle, as studies have shown that they can affect native thistles. Orders will be accepted for the stem gall fly. Please call us to discuss other options for controlling Canada thistle.**

Stem gall fly effect on Canada Thistle

The two photos above are an example of the effects that the stem gall fly has on Canada Thistle - weakening the plant's vigor and seedbank.

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Foster Creek Conservation District 203 S Rainier Waterville, WA 98858 509-888-6372 © Foster Creek CD