Biological Invasions

, Volume 16, Issue 2, pp 445–453 | Cite as

Inadvertent biological control: an Australian thrips killing an invasive New Zealand tree in California

Original Paper


Transport hubs of international trade and tourism are sites of unprecedented long-distance dispersal of species and novel ecological interactions. In cases of invasive plants released from their specialist natural enemies, novel interactions with both resident enemies and new arrivals can accumulate and potentially reduce weed competitiveness. I present here one dramatic example of this, where an invasive woody weed in southern California is being rapidly controlled by an accidentally introduced genus-specialist herbivorous insect. The New Zealand native shrub/small tree, Myoporum laetum, is a long-time popular ornamental plant in California and has become an invasive woody weed. In 2005, a Myoporum-specific thrips, Klambothrips myopori, was discovered (and described) in California feeding on M. laetum leaves. Several searches have failed to find K. myopori in New Zealand and a population has recently been discovered in Tasmania, Australia, feeding on Myoporum insulare. In 5 years, K. myopori has killed off about half of southern Californian M. laetum with almost all surviving individuals being gradually defoliated. Inadequate border biosecurity has resulted in inadvertent biological control, in a rapid timeframe, caused by a novel enemy. Unfortunately, K. myopori has subsequently been accidentally transported from California to Hawaii where it is now killing off Hawaiian native Myoporum sandwicense. Transport hubs can both connect weeds with natural enemies and disperse those enemies more widely.


Enemy release hypothesis Invasion biology Myoporaceae Plant–insect interactions Phlaeothripidae 



Ross Beever, Jenny Dimock, Laura Fagan, Richard Hill, Nicholas Martin, and Walter Stahel provided useful information about the absence (so far) of K. myopori records from New Zealand. Laurence Mound, Mark Hoddle, and Richard Hill made useful comments on earlier drafts and were generous in sharing their observations of K. myopori. Cythia King shared useful information about the ongoing invasion of K. myopori in Hawaii. Thanks to Stan and Helen Molles for hosting my family and me when in Orange County.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of EcologyLincoln UniversityLincolnNew Zealand

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