This review is a summary of developments that have contributed to the success of several biological control programmes against invasive cactus species (Cactaceae) that have been worked on in South Africa over the last 12 years. Six potential biological control agents have been identified for the control of Pereskia aculeata Mil. and molecular studies have identified the origin of the South African P. aculeata population. Host-specificity testing is now required for the three most promising of these agents. The successful biological control programme against Opuntia stricta (Haw.) Haw. has resulted in a change in management strategies against this weed in the Kruger National Park and the control of O. stricta is now almost entirely reliant on biological control. Taxonomic problems associated with the identification of Cylindropuntia fulgida var. fulgida (Engelm.) F.M.Knuth var. fulgida have been resolved and an appropriate cochineal insect (Hemiptera: Dactylopiidae) biotype has been released, resulting in substantial declines in Cyl. fulgida var. fulgida populations. A long-term monitoring programme has been initiated to evaluate the progress of this new cochineal insect biotype. The Harrisia mealybug, Hypogeococcus pungens Granara de Willink (Hemiptera: Pseudococcidae), which was originally released on Harrisia martinii (Labour.) Britton & Rose has been collected and redistributed onto Cereus jamacaru DC., where it reduces fruit production and leads to the death of both seedlings and large plants. Resolving taxonomic problems to ensure the correct identification of plant species and the most appropriate biological control biotypes have been key issues that have led to the successful control of several cactaceous weed species in South Africa.
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Vol. 19 • No. 2