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Biocontrol introduction

Target pest: Hawkweeds (Pilosella, Hieracium spp.) (Asterales: Asteraceae)

Agent introduced: Oxyptilus pilosellae (Lepidoptera: Pterophoridae), hieracium plume moth


1996, 1997, 2001

Import source:

1996 Switzerland, 1997 2001 Germany



Release details:

Smith (2007) - due to rearing difficulties only released at one site.


Smith (2007) - not thought to have established.

Landcare Research (2015i) - did not establish.

Landcare Research (2020e) - surveys in 2020 at release sites of hieracium biocontrol agents - Canterbury and Otago in the South Island (Marlborough release sites were not visited) and on the Central Plateau of the North Island - did not recover any O. pilosellae and it is presumed to have failed to establish, which is not surprising given the small numbers released.

General comments:

Target species note (17 February 2024) - in the 1990s and 2000s, six biocontrol agents were introduced to New Zealand to control hawkweeds, specifically four weedy species that at the time were considered to be in the genus Hieracium (with three of those in the subgenus Pilosella). Subsequently, Pilosella has been recognised as a distinct genus [see Taxonomic note (17 February 2024) entry below]; the four weed species are now classified as Pilosella officinarum (syn Hieracium pilosella) (mouse-ear hawkweed), P. caespitosa (syn H. caespitosum) (field hawkweed), P. praealta (syn H. praealtum) (king devil hawkweed) and H. lepidulum (tussock hawkweed). Of the biocontrol agents, the rust Puccinia hieracia var. piloselloidarum and the gall wasp Aulacidea subterminalis attack only P. officinarum, the plume moth Oxyptilus pilosellae attacks both P. officinarum and P. caespitosa, the gall fly Macrolabis pilosellae attacks all three Pilosella species, and the hover flies Cheilosia urbana and C. psilophthalma attack all four hawkweed species. (Information from Hieracium Control Trust (2000).)

Taxonomic note (17 February 2024) - at the time that O. pilosellae was introduced to New Zealand, the target weeds (hawkweeds) were all considered to be in the genus Hieracium. Bräutigam & Greuter (2007) note that Pilosella was considered by many authors to be a subgenus of Hieracium but that in recent decades generic recognition of Pilosella had gained increased support. Bräutigam & Greuter (2007) recognise Pilosella as a distinct genus from Hieracium and reclassify the Euro-Mediterranean flora accordingly. Under this classification there are introduced hawkweeds present in New Zealand in both genera (Hieracium and Pilosella) [see Target species note (17 February 2024) entry above].


Bräutigam S, Greuter W (2007). A new treatment of Pilosella for the Euro-Mediterranean flora. Willdenowia 37: 123-137 https://doi.org/10.3372/wi.37.37106

Hieracium Control Trust (2000). Application to EPA (NOR00001) to import for release the insects Macrolabis pilosellae (Binnie 1878), Cheilosia urbana Meigen and Cheilosia psilophthalma (Becker 1894) for the purpose of biological control of hawkweeds, Hieracium spp. Environmental Protection Authority website https://www.epa.govt.nz/assets/FileAPI/hsno-ar/NOR00001/6b046d0b38/Application-NOR00001.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 (2015i). Who's who in biological control of weeds? Weed Biocontrol: What's New? 73: 10-11 http://www.landcareresearch.co.nz/publications/newsletters/biological-control-of-weeds/issue-73

Landcare Research (2020e). Hieracium biocontrol – 20 years on. Weed Biocontrol: What's New? 93, Aug 2020 https://www.landcareresearch.co.nz/publications/weed-biocontrol/weed-biocontrol-articles/hieracium-biocontrol-20-years-on/

Smith L (2007). Hieracium Plume Moth. In The Biological Control of Weeds Book (Landcare Research) http://www.landcareresearch.co.nz/research/biocons/weeds/book/documents/Hieracium_Plume_Moth.pdf