Invasions of boll weevil (Anthonomus grandis) into the United States and sea lamprey (Petromyzon marinus) into the Great Lakes were similar in many ways. Important species (American cotton, Gossypium hirsutum, and lake trout, Salvelinus namaycush) and the industries they supported were negatively affected. Initial control efforts were unsuccessful until pesticides and application technologies were developed. For boll weevils, controls relying on pesticides evolved into an integrated program that included recommended farming practices and poisoned baits. However, the discovery of a boll weevil sex pheromone in 1964 allowed adoption of an ongoing program of eradication. Despite opposition over concept and cost, insecticides, pheromone traps, poisoned baits, and approved farming practices were used to eradicate boll weevils from Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, and Alabama by 1999. Using the working back approach along the path of the original invasion, eradication was nearly completed by 2002 in Mississippi and eradication programs were underway in Arkansas, Tennessee, Oklahoma, Louisiana, and parts of Texas. Insecticide use for cotton production decreased 50 to 90%, and cotton yields and farm income increased an average of 78 kg/ha and $190 U.S./ha in areas where boll weevils were eradicated. For sea lampreys, integrated management uses lampricides, barriers to migration, trapping, and release of sterilized males. Although sea lamprey eradication is not currently feasible, recent research on larval and sex pheromones might provide the tools to make it possible. A successful eradication program for sea lampreys starting in Lake Superior and expanding to the lower Great Lakes would ultimately provide huge ecological and economic benefits by eliminating lampricide applications, removing barriers that block teleost fishes, and facilitating the recovery of lake trout. Should the opportunity arise, the concept of sea lamprey eradication should not be rejected out of hand. The successful boll weevil eradication program shows that sea lamprey eradication might be achievable.
Additional publication details
Boll weevil eradication: a model for sea lamprey control?