Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Biological Pesticide Found for Zebra Mussels

zebra mussels on clam
zebra mussels attached to native clam
photo from GLSGN Exotic Species Library/ USFWS
from the Schenectady Daily Gazette, "Biopesticide may solve zebra mussel problem," by Sara Foss, Nov 23, 2008

Zebra mussels feed on the bacteria Pseudomonas fluorescens regularly, but an overdose is lethal. The bacteria is naturally present in lake water.

Dr. Daniel Molloy, director of the Cambridge, New York Museum’s Field Research Laboratory has developed the natural pesticide. “It’s a question of dose,” Molloy said. “If you go to a pipe, and add a million times more [Pseudomonas fluorescens], and create artificially high densities of bacteria, they will feed on it until they die.”

Malloy had previously developed a biological pesticide for black flies. He was approached by power companies to try to apply the same type of solution to kill zebra mussels. The invasive mussels clog pipes in power plants and water intakes. Malloy began hunting for a soil bacteria that was toxic to the mussels without success. He had no success, and was ready to give up, but the power companies asked him to continue (and provided funding). Within 8 weeks he found the Pseudomonas fluorescens.

Previous to this discovery the only practical methods of getting rid of the zebra mussels were chemical pesticides (toxic to many species), or the application of high temperature water which is expensive to maintain.

The bacteria also kills the invasive quagga mussel, a relative of the zebra mussel. is likely to be available next year, and will probably be sold through a commercial partner of the museum.

A full scale test of the product will be conducted next year at Davis Dam on the Colorado River, Arizona. The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation will determine if the bacteria can be used in a dam to kill quagga mussels.

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