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Biocontrol introduction

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

Agent introduced: Aceria vitalbae (Acariformes: Eriophyidae), old man's beard gall mite


Pre-2019 (numerous importations since ~2010), 2019 (hand-delivered importation)

Import source:


Import notes:

Landcare Research (2019b) - establishing a mite colony in containment has so far proved to be difficult. The mites have either arrived from Europe in poor condition or there have been issues with insect pests like aphids and thrips out-competing the mites on potted plants. A fresh attempt to establish a mite population in containment will be made in June 2019, with mite expert Dr Biljana Vidovic from the University of Belgrade, Serbia, hand-delivering the mites to avoid shipping issues.

Landcare Research (2021b) - a mite colony was finally established from the hand-delivered mites [see Landcare Research (2019b) entry above]. The mites were painstakingly transferred on pinheads to fresh plant material and after receiving MPI approval to remove them from containment, the infested plants were transferred to an outdoor shadehouse on Landcare Research's Lincoln, Canterbury campus for mass-rearing.

Landcare Research (2021i) - it has been more than 10 years since the mite was first imported into containment in New Zealand; after numerous failed attempts at establishing a laboratory colony, a starter colony was hand-delivered from Serbia in July 2019 [see entries above in this section].



Release details:

Landcare Research (2019i) - it is hoped the first field releases can be made in late-2019.

Landcare Research (2020g) - it is hoped the first field releases can be made in late-2020.

Landcare Research (2021b) - the first official field releases of the old man’s beard mite will go ahead later this year in spring [see 'Import notes' section for details of release from containment for mass-rearing].

Landcare Research (2021i) - the first field release of A. vitalbae took place in Rangitikei District in the lower North Island in September 2021. In the following few weeks more releases were conducted by several regional councils in both the North and South Islands, totalling 14 releases altogether, the most recent being in Timaru.

Landcare Research (2022b) - the 2021 releases [see Landcare Research (2021i) entry above] were made by planting C. vitalba plants heavily infested with A. vitalbae in the field near C. vitalba infestations. Sites included one in the Waipara district of North Canterbury, South Island.

Landcare Research (2022h, 2023f) - 14 releases made in the year Sep 2021 - Aug 2022, 21 in the year Sep 2022 - Aug 2023.


Landcare Research (2021b) - over the past 18 months [up to Feb 2021] the mites have slowly transferred to fresh plants placed alongside the original mite-infested plants removed from containment into a shadehouse [see Landcare Research (2021b) entry in 'Import notes' section]. They have also been found on old man’s beard plants growing in other shadehouses, and even on wild plants growing on the Lincoln campus.

Landcare Research (2022b) - A. vitalbae has been found on C. vitalba at least 800 m from the release site at Waipara, North Canterbury, approximately eight months post-release. The mites have also been found at several other locations in Canterbury, including one at least 65 km from the nearest known established site. In fact, it is becoming difficult to find old man’s beard plants not infested by the mites throughout Canterbury as far as Hanmer Springs.

Landcare Research (2023g) - establishment has been confirmed in several regions of the country.

Impacts on non-targets:

Landcare Research (2018k), EPA (2018b) - it was concluded from host range experiments conducted in Serbia that the persistence of A. vitalbae on three New Zealand native Clematis species without gall damage is unlikely to lead to sustainable populations. Without the formation of galls, A. vitalbae becomes susceptible to desiccation and predation. On the basis of the test results and the host plant records in Europe, A. vitalbae is expected to effectively colonise only Clematis vitalba in New Zealand with only occasional galls on nontarget exotic Clematis species, e.g. Clematis stans, which is in the same phylogenetic clade as Clematis vitalba.

General comments:

Landcare Research (2019b) - the old man’s beard mite is extremely difficult to rear under laboratory conditions, and after numerous failed attempts at establishing a laboratory colony in New Zealand, host range testing was eventually conducted in its native range of Serbia.

EPA Applications:

EPA (2018b) - 4 Jul 2018: application by Horizons Regional Council to release a leaf-galling mite, Aceria vitalbae, as a biological control agent for old man's beard (Clematis vitalba). EPA Application APP203313, approved without controls 29 Oct 2018.


EPA (2018b). EPA application APP203313: to release a leaf-galling mite, Aceria vitalbae, as a biological control agent for old man's beard (Clematis vitalba). Environmental Protection Authority website https://www.epa.govt.nz/database-search/hsno-application-register/view/APP203313

Landcare Research (2018k). The host range of the leaf‐galling eriophyid mite Aceria vitalbae, a biological control agent for Clematis vitalba. Landcare Research website https://www.landcareresearch.co.nz/__data/assets/pdf_file/0005/139667/old-mans-beard-host-range-tests.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 (2019i). Who's who in biological control of weeds? Weed Biocontrol: What's New? 89, August 2019 https://www.landcareresearch.co.nz/publications/newsletters/biological-control-of-weeds/weed-biocontrol-issue-89/whos-who-in-biological-control-of-weeds

Landcare Research (2020g). Who's who in biological control of weeds? Weed Biocontrol: What's New? 93, Aug 2020. https://www.landcareresearch.co.nz/publications/weed-biocontrol/weed-biocontrol-articles/status-of-agents/

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 (2021i). The old man's beard mite has finally landed. Weed Biocontrol: What's New? 98, November 2021 https://www.landcareresearch.co.nz/publications/weed-biocontrol/weed-biocontrol-articles/the-old-mans-beard-mite-has-finally-landed/

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 (2022h). Further reading and agents released 2021/22. Weed Biocontrol: What's New? 101, August 2022 https://www.landcareresearch.co.nz/publications/weed-biocontrol/weed-biocontrol-articles/further-reading-and-agents-released-202122/

Landcare Research (2023f). Further reading and biocontrol agents released in 2022/23. Weed Biocontrol: What's New? 105, August 2023. https://www.landcareresearch.co.nz/publications/weed-biocontrol/weed-biocontrol-articles/further-reading-and-agents-released

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/