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Broom busting mites available to the public

Broom busting mites available to the public

A rare opportunity to take home some very special mites is being held at Nokomai Station in Northern Southland on Monday 27 November.

The station has proven itself a highly successful breeding site for the broom gall mite – a biocontrol agent designed to help control the pest plant broom.

Senior biosecurity officer Randall Milne said the gall mites have been released at a number of sites throughout Southland since 2009, but their numbers at Nokomai Station are now high enough to allow them to be shared more readily.

“This is their fourth breeding season at this location, and they have become quite abundant in a relatively short timeframe”.

Anybody is welcome to come and pick up some free gall mites from Nokomai Station on the open day, which will take place between 10am and 2pm. Biocontrol specialist Jesse Bythell will be on hand to discuss the benefits of biocontrol and also demonstrate how to get the gall mites established on your broom. Environment Southland staff will also be available to assist.

Each person can take up to 20 sprigs of broom which will have a large number of galls with the mites inside. People should bring a pair of secateurs and a cooler bag or chilly bin to transport their new broom-busting mites home – this will ensure they stay alive and remain in the galls while being moved.

The gall mites are starting to show they can be one of the most effective tools in the fight against broom and are one of a number of biocontrol agents being used in Southland. All biocontrol agents undergo rigorous testing before being approved for release into New Zealand and researchers continue to check for any unintentional damage to plants. The safety record for biocontrol agents continues to show they only attack their target host plant.

Environment Southland administers the Biological Control of Weeds Programme in Southland, which has a strong focus on agents that specifically target broom, ragwort and thistles. Broom is an extremely vigorous weed that is widespread and continues to invade more areas. In New Zealand broom can live more than 20 years and the seeds can lie dormant in the soil for decades and germinate when they are disturbed.

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