Less than fifty years after the first international shipment of an insect natural enemy (by C. V. Riley), the United States Department of Agriculture established the European Parasite Laboratory, in Auch, France. The year was 1919, and the main project at the time was a search for natural enemies of the European corn borer. As the name implies, the insect had been introduced to the United States from Europe, and a classical biological control approach was launched to reunite the pest with some of its natural enemies. After a series of moves through France, the European Parasite Laboratory and the Biocontrol of Weeds Laboratory-Europe (established in 1958 in Rome) were consolidated in 1991 as the European Biological Control Laboratory (EBCL) and re-located to Montferrier-sur-Lez, in the south of France.
Currently, the laboratory employs seven scientists and three support scientists whose main mission is to search for natural enemies (including pathogens) of insects and weeds that have been introduced to the United States from different parts of the world. In addition, research is conducted on the basic biology of these natural enemies, including host specificity testing, evaluation of efficacy, etc. Work on insects focuses on diamondback moth, pink hibiscus mealybug, gypsy moth, tarnished plant bug, codling moth, alfalfa plant bug, cereal leaf beetle, and alfalfa weevil. The weeds currently being worked on are Russian knapweed, the mustard complex, yellow starthistle, saltcedar, Russian thistle, rush skeletonweed, scotch thistle, and leafy spurge.
A new EBCL laboratory is currently under construction at the Campus International de Baillarguet, also in Montferrier-sur-Lez. This laboratory will form part of a triad of international biological control laboratories, including the Australian facility (CSIRO, Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization), and the French laboratory (INRA, National Institute for Agricultural Research). A biological control library will be part of the INRA facility, for joint use of all three laboratories, and will be staffed by a librarian whose specialty is biological control.
Detailed information on EBCL's program, staff, publications, and success stories is available on the Web.
- Fernando E. Vega, EBCL
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