12 Apr 2014 | By Sun International

Using Flies in the Fight Against Aliens

Sun International Zambia is throwing its weight into a project to control an extremely invasive, poisonous plant introduced by early European settlers, Lantana Camara, commonly known as Sleeper Weed, Lantana or Wild Sage.

The Victoria Falls, one of the seven natural wonders of the world and a national heritage site, has been affected by the invasion of this plant. It has taken over the native bush land on the Victoria Falls, displacing more desirable species and thereby decreasing biodiversity and altering the structure of the vegetation around and below the Falls.

Lantana has also been implicated in the poisoning of a number of animals like cattle, buffalo, sheep and goats, which feed on its leaves and seeds that cause poisoning. It harbours several pests, including malarial and tsetse flies.

One of the methods identified, is the biological removal with the use of the Leaf-Mining Fly, Ophiomyia Camarae. A leaf miner is the larva of an insect that lives in and eats the leaf tissue of plants and inhibits the growth of the plant by feeding on its leaves. While this does not completely destroy the plant, it slows down its growth rate, giving other plant species space and time to grow. Indigenous trees will be planted in areas where the Lantana is going to be removed to restore bio-diversity.​