A Jewel of a Beetle in fight against Cat’s claw creeper

Cat’s claw creeper (Dolichandra unguis-cati) is an exotic garden plant escapee that is invading riparian waterways in the north west.

The creeper is a vigorous vine that has the ability to smother native vegetation, resulting in death of both mature trees and understory species. Cat’s claw creeper is listed as a Weed of National Significance.

Traditionally this weed has been controlled by chemical and mechanical removal which is laborious and difficult, but there is another biological control here to help.

The Jewel beetle (Hylaeogena jureceki) is native to South America and exclusively eats the leaves of cat’s claw creeper, while not posing a threat to non-target species. The Jewel beetle offers a low risk, cost effective option to support traditional methods.

Moree Plains Shire Council received its first batch of Jewel beetle in mid-December. The beetle were quickly given a new home in a large infestation of cat’s claw on the banks of the Gwydir River. The site is one of the upstream priorities currently targeted through a project treating weeds which pose a threat to downstream landholders and the Ramsar listed Gwydir wetlands.

The beetle’s effectiveness will be monitored by Local Land Services and Moree Plains Shire Council. The beetles will need favourable conditions and time to build up numbers but have no shortage of food at the current location.

Cat’s Claw: What does it look like?

  • Large woody vine that climbs and creeps aggressively
  • Flowers are yellow, bell-shaped, 4-10cm long, up to 10cm wide
  • Leaves have two leaflets 5-25mm long, with 3-clawed tendril (cat’s claw) 3-17mm long growing between them
  • Pods are long, narrow, flat and contain many seeds
  • Fruit is elongated, glossy green when young, dark brown as it matures, 15-50cm long, 8-12mm wide
  • Each fruit has oblong seeds, 10-40mm long, 4-10mm wide
  • Plant has vigorous root and tuber system.

Cat's claw

Cat’s claw creeper large yellow flower

Image: John Hosking NSW DPI

Cat's claw tendrils

Cat’s claw creeper has three-pronged tendrils

Image: John Hosking NSW DPI

Jewel beetle release

Jewel beetle release site on banks of Gwydir river

Jewel beetle

Jewel beetle feasting on Cat’s claw

Image: Watergum community

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