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Biocontrol introduction

Target pest: Clematis vitalba (Ranunculales: Ranunculaceae), old man's beard

Agent introduced: Monophadnus spinolae (Hymenoptera: Tenthredinidae), old man's beard sawfly


1997, 1998, 1999, 2018

Import source:

Austria 1997; Switzerland 1998, 1999; Serbia 2018

Import notes:

Gourlay et al. (2000) - the application to import and release M. spinolae was made in 1996. Mass rearing for releases has proven difficult due to a 20:1 M:F sex ratio, asynchronous emergence, and poor larval survival. A further importation of M. spinolae into containment in New Zealand will be made in 1999 to augment breeding stocks. Emerging adults will be released from quarantine to start a colony, and widespread releases in the coming summer season [1999-2000] are planned.

Landcare Research (2005f) - Monophadnus spinolae has always been a difficult to mass-rear and the rearing programme has now been abandoned. It appeared that the colony had become diseased as numbers were decreasing each generation. At this stage it does not appear to be worth the expense of sourcing more M. spinolae from Switzerland; instead, existing release sites will be monitored for establishment.

Landcare Research (2007a) - specimens of M. spinolae from Austria, dated 1997, and Switzerland, dated 1998 and 1999, are present in the Biological Control Voucher Collection of the New Zealand Arthropod Collection [indicating importations from those sources in those years].

Landcare Research (2019b) - mass rearing challenges with the 1990s importations resulted in suboptimal numbers of sawflies for release and possibly a sex ratio skewed towards males. A fresh sawfly shipment from Serbia was imported into containment in May 2018. A successful rearing procedure was established the the sawfly reared through three generations, producing good numbers of both males and females.


1998 (Swiss material), 2018 (Serbian material)

Release details:

Gourlay et al. (2000) - in 1998 a single release of 100 M. spinolae eggs, larvae, and pupae was made at Kaituna Valley, Canterbury. Despite difficulties mass rearing M. spinolae, further releases are planned in 1999 [see Gourlay et al. (2000) entry in ‘Import notes’ section].

Landcare Research (2002a, 2002d, 2003b, 2004b) - one release was made in the year to Aug 2002 (the fourth release to that date), 11 in the year Sep 2002 - Aug 2003, 3 in the year Sep 2003 - Aug 2004.

Landcare Research (2005f) - releases of M. spinolae have been made at a total of 17 sites: Bay of Plenty (2 sites), Hawke’s Bay (1), Taranaki (1), Manawatu-Whanganui (2) and Wellington (2) in the North Island, and Tasman (2), Marlborough (1), Canterbury (5) and Otago (1) in the South Island.

Gourlay (2007) - released widely from 1998, but at limited number of sites as difficult to rear.

Landcare Research (2016d) - 16 releases were made at 14 sites from Bay of Plenty to Otago, by far the largest being nearly 3,000 individuals at a site near Nelson [one of the Tasman district sites - see Landcare Research (2005f) entry above in this section] in 2002.

Landcare Research (2018g) - the sawfly, using new material sourced from Serbia, will be re-released, in much bigger numbers and with better genetic diversity than previous releases, at a site carefully chosen to be as be safe as possible from disturbance.

Landcare Research (2019b) - due to rearing challenges, releases (at a total of 16 sites) from the initial importations [late-1990s/early-2000s] were suboptimal: probably too small and possibly skewed towards males. The plan this time [with material imported 2018] is to put out a large number of sawflies, with a good sex ratio, at an ideal site (based on observed preferences in Serbia - sunny with sandy soil) to try to establish a sawfly "nursery" that can later be used to supply other M. spinolae-infested areas. Sawflies were released in stages in December 2018 near the Waipara River in North Canterbury as material became available.

Landcare Research (2021b) - in late-2019, thousands of sawfly larvae along with mated adult females were released in Amberley in the Waipara district in the Canterbury Region in the South Island [the same release site as the December 2018 releases - see Landcare Research (2019b) entry above in this section].


Gourlay et al. (2000) - the 1998 Canterbury release site has been monitored for one year, but neither larvae nor adults have been observed.

Landcare Research (2005f) - no evidence of establishment has been seen yet, but it is not unusual for it to take several years before new agents are detectable in the field. At least three of the release sites have been destroyed by flooding or slipping.

Gourlay (2007) - no signs of establishment recorded.

Landcare Research (2009c) - Monophadnus spinolae has probably failed to establish.

Landcare Research (2013h) - Monophadnus spinolae failed to establish at any of the 16 sites where it was released.

Landcare Research (2016d) - surviving release sites checked; found only at Nelson site and rare even there (three larvae, one adult found). Population may be inbred, and predatory vespid wasps are likely to be a limiting factor in New Zealand.

Landcare Research (2017g) - only established in low numbers at one site in Nelson. More material will be imported in 2017 in an attempt to establish this insect more widely.

Landcare Research (2018g) - it is not fully understood why M. spinolae did not establish well from the initial importations and releases. It was difficult to rear and as a result the material released may have been significantly genetically bottlenecked. It will re-released from new material imported from Serbia [see Landcare Research (2019b) entry in 'Import notes' section above].

Landcare Research (2019b) - already [February 2019] there is feeding damage starting to appear on plants at the Waipara River site, and three male flies were spotted flying around, probably from larvae released in early December 2018.

Landcare Research (2021b) - in February 2020 some larvae were found feeding on leaves at the late-2019 release site, and adults (which would have been second generation adults) were seen flying around. The site was visited again this summer [2020/21] and both adults and larvae were observed.

Landcare Research (2022b) - the 2018-19 Waipara, Canterbury release site has been monitored closely since early 2019, with the presence of adult males (which fly searching for mates while females remain hidden) consistently being noted. But not until this last season (November 2021 – April 2022) could it be reported that the population was booming, with many males flying and, during the last visits, larvae easily found on C. vitalba leaves and feeding damage obvious.

Landcare Research (2023g) - establishment has been confirmed at the Waipara, Canterbury site following the 2018-19 releases.

Impacts on target:

Landcare Research (2016i) - has only established at one site in Nelson where it still appears to be rare and having no obvious impact.

Cartier (2021a) - currently, M. spinolae is not having an impact on C. vitalba at the sites at which it has established [Nelson and Waipara (Canterbury)], where it is only present in low numbers.

Impacts on non-targets:

Gourlay et al. (2000) - host range testing of M spinolae was carried out in Switzerland betweeen 1992 and 1995, using host material grown from seeds and cuttings of 43 New Zealand plant species sent to Switzerland. Initial tests, using field-collected 1st to 5th instar larvae, showed 80% of Clematis alpina, 30% of C. foetida and 10% of C. jackmanii leaves were attacked; however, no 1st or 2nd instar larvae survived to maturity. Similar tests in 1993 and 1994 showed substantial feeding on C. foetida, C. cunninghamii, and C. alpina leaves. When these five species were retested in no-choice tests using newly emerged larvae rather than field-collected larvae, all larvae died without feeding within 3 days. These tests indicated that M. spinolae was host specific enough to introduce to New Zealand.

General comments:

Landcare Research (2016d) - the merits of attempting to establish the sawfly again have been considered. The initial step was to check release sites once more [see Landcare Research (2016d) entry in 'Establishment' section]. It is recommended that there are no further releases as vespid wasps likely to be a limiting factor in New Zealand.

Landcare Research (2018g) - further releases will be made with new material sourced from Serbia [see details in 'Release details' section], with steps taken to ensure that wasps don't impact on the newly released sawflies, although it is thought this is not a key reason for the poor establishment previously, since the larvae readily ooze haemolymph when threatened, which deters predators. The sawfly population in Serbia may have a better climate match with New Zealand than earlier introductions.

Landcare Research (2024c) - a recent population genetics study identified five distinct C. vitalba genotypes throughout its native range in the UK and Europe, with varying prevalence in different regions. Remarkably, all five genotypes appear to be present in New Zealand, with different regions hosting a mixture of genotypes. This suggests that C. vitalba was introduced into New Zealand on multiple occasions from different sources, followed by deliberate spread across the country. The most prevalent old man’s beard genotype in New Zealand shares similarities with genotypes from the UK and Italy, while other genotypes correspond to those from Germany, Sicily and Serbia, with the least common one originating from other European countries. Identifying this genetic diversity in New Zealand presents both challenges to, and opportunities for, developing tailored biocontrol strategies that account for genotype-specific interactions.


Cartier A (2021a). Old man's beard sawfly: Monophadnus spinolae. The Biological Control of Weeds Book - Te Whakapau Taru: A New Zealand Guide (Landcare Research) [Update of Gourlay 2007j] https://www.landcareresearch.co.nz/discover-our-research/biodiversity-biosecurity/weed-biocontrol/projects-agents/biocontrol-agents/old-mans-beard-sawfly/

Gourlay AH, Wittenberg R, Hill RL, Spiers AG, Fowler SV (2000). The biological control programme against Clematis vitalba in New Zealand. In Proceedings of the X international symposium on biological control of weeds 2000 (pp. 799-806). Montana State University Bozeman, Montana, USA. https://bugwoodcloud.org/ibiocontrol/proceedings/pdf/10_709-718.pdf

Gourlay H (2007j). Old man's beard sawfly: Monophadnus spinolae. The Biological Control of Weeds Book - Te Whakapau Taru: A New Zealand Guide (Landcare Research) [Updated 2021 (see Cartier 2021)] https://www.landcareresearch.co.nz/discover-our-research/biodiversity-biosecurity/weed-biocontrol/projects-agents/biocontrol-agents/old-mans-beard-sawfly/

Landcare Research (2002a). Control agents released in 2001/02. Patua Te Otaota - Weed Clippings. Biological Control of Weeds Annual Review 2001/2002. August 2002, 8: 2 https://www.landcareresearch.co.nz/assets/Publications/Weed-biocontrol/weedcp02.pdf

Landcare Research (2002d). Who's who in biological control of weeds? Patua Te Otaota - Weed Clippings. Biological Control of Weeds Annual Review 2001/2002. August 2002, 8: 14-15 https://www.landcareresearch.co.nz/assets/Publications/Weed-biocontrol/weedcp02.pdf

Landcare Research (2003b). Control agents released in 2002/03. What’s New In Biological Control of Weeds? Annual Review. August 2003, 25: 2 https://www.landcareresearch.co.nz/assets/Publications/Weed-biocontrol/wtsnew25.pdf

Landcare Research (2004b). Control agents released in 2003/04. What’s New In Biological Control of Weeds? Annual Review. August 2004, 29: 2 https://www.landcareresearch.co.nz/assets/Publications/Weed-biocontrol/wtsnew29.pdf

Landcare Research (2005f). Hot gossip. What’s New In Biological Control of Weeds? May 2005, 32:3 https://www.landcareresearch.co.nz/assets/Publications/Weed-biocontrol/wtsnew32.pdf

Landcare Research (2007a). New Zealand Arthropod Collection (NZAC) Biological Control Voucher Collection. Landcare Research website [Updated 2020] https://www.landcareresearch.co.nz/tools-and-resources/collections/new-zealand-arthropod-collection-nzac/databases-and-holdings/new-t2-landing-page/

Landcare Research (2009c). Who's who in biological control of weeds? What’s New In Biological Control of Weeds? August 2008, 49: 14-15 https://www.landcareresearch.co.nz/assets/Publications/Weed-biocontrol/wtsnew49.pdf

Landcare Research (2013h). Mite we have found the answer to old man's beard? What’s New In Biological Control of Weeds? August 2013, 65: 8 https://www.landcareresearch.co.nz/assets/Publications/Weed-biocontrol/whatsnew65.pdf

Landcare Research (2016d). What's happening with old man's beard? Weed Biocontrol: What's New? 76: 4-5 https://www.landcareresearch.co.nz/assets/Publications/Weed-biocontrol/Issue-76.pdf

Landcare Research (2016i). Who's who in biological control of weeds? Weed Biocontrol: What's New? 77: 10-11 http://www.landcareresearch.co.nz/publications/newsletters/biological-control-of-weeds/issue-77

Landcare Research (2017g). Who's who in biological control of weeds? Weed Biocontrol: What's New? 81: 10-11 https://www.landcareresearch.co.nz/publications/newsletters/biological-control-of-weeds/issue-81

Landcare Research (2018g). Old man's beard to face new attack. Weed Biocontrol: What's New? May 2018, 84: 8 https://www.landcareresearch.co.nz/assets/Publications/Weed-biocontrol/weed-biocontrol-issue-84.pdf

Landcare Research (2019b). Two agents ready to trim old man's beard. Weed Biocontrol: What's New? 87, February 2019. https://www.landcareresearch.co.nz/publications/newsletters/biological-control-of-weeds/issue-87/two-agents-ready-to-trim-old-mans-beard

Landcare Research (2021b). Old man's beard agents show promise. Weed Biocontrol: What's New? 95, Feb 2021 https://www.landcareresearch.co.nz/publications/weed-biocontrol/weed-biocontrol-articles/old-mans-beard-agents-show-promise

Landcare Research (2022b). Two recruits to battle old man’s beard. Weed Biocontrol: What's New? 100, May 2022 https://www.landcareresearch.co.nz/publications/weed-biocontrol/weed-biocontrol-articles/two-recruits-to-battle-old-mans-beard/

Landcare Research (2023g). Who's who in the biological control of weeds. Weed Biocontrol: What's New? 105, August 2023 https://www.landcareresearch.co.nz/publications/weed-biocontrol/weed-biocontrol-articles/whos-who/

Landcare Research (2024c). Old man's beard pathogens. Weed Biocontrol: What's New? May 2024, 108: 6 https://www.landcareresearch.co.nz/publications/weed-biocontrol/weed-biocontrol-articles/old-mans-beard-pathogens/