The prickly pear is an invasive cactus plant that competes with native Australian vegetation. It can form dense impenetrable thickets in pastures, offering refuge for pests such as foxes and rabbits. Worse still, it can also provide an ideal habitat for fruit flies.
Murraylands and Riverland Landscape Board senior district officer Jodie Woof said people might not know that prickly pear produces fleshy fruit, which is a host for fruit fly. "Our team are working with landholders to tackle incursions of prickly pear in the Riverland using biological, mechanical and chemical control," she said. "It is important to have the right species of the biological control cochineal scale insect for its correct host cactus. We have set up nursery sites around the Riverland to breed specific species of the biological control insect for their host plant."
Woof said using the cochineal biological control can be a very successful method over time for controlling large and small prickly pear species. Landholders can remove minor incursions of cactus manually, but larger dense infestations may require removal by machinery.
"Our district officers can advise landholders on appropriate control methods to remove this pest plant and assist with the hire of stem injection kits or release of the biological cochineal control," Woof said. "If landholders have prickly pear on their property, we are encouraging them to go out and have a look as they are currently fruiting. It is these fruiting species that can host fruit fly. Removal of unwanted and unmanaged prickly pear fruit can reduce fruit fly breeding areas."