EWING — A state laboratory in Ewing is creating pests to pest the pests.

But at least one South Jersey lawmaker says the Phillip Alampi Beneficial Insect Rearing Laboratory could use some help.

The lab, known as PABIL, breeds and distributes bugs and parasites that go after creatures harmful to agriculture and the public.

"We raise beneficial insects that will attack mostly exotic plant pests and plants themselves," Supervising Entomologist Mark Mayer said.  "Those are organisms that come here without any natural enemies. And the idea is to bring in the natural enemies and to reduce the pest problem out in the environment, and bring it back more into balance in the environment, instead of being an absolute nasty pest all of the time.

"Basically, you can say that it is a way to control a lot of invasive species."

One target of the lab's work: the "Mile-A-Minute Weed" (Persicaria perfoliata), described as a vigorous, barbed vine that smothers other herbaceous plants, shrubs and even trees by growing over them. Growing up to 6 inches per day, the weed forms dense mats that cover other plants and then stresses and weakens them through smothering. It is covered with spines.

"We have introduced a little weevil, which is starting to have an impact on the "Mile-a-Minute," Mayer said.

Plant-control beneficial insect programs can take about 10 to 15 years to work," he said

"But we are seeing an impact with that. We work with a Mexican Bean Beetle, that has been an ongoing program, where we have released a tiny parasitic wasp on the Mexican Bean Beetles and soybeans. And since 1987, no farmer in our program has had to use any insecticide for the Mexican Bean Beetle," he said.

Mayer said these bugs and parasites that counteract other bugs and parasites translate into dollars and cents.

"We save the taxpayers and farmers about $101 million dollars every single year in pesticide costs," Mayer said.

But the lab is sorely in need of repairs, according to Assemblyman Bob Andrzejczak of Cape May, who has sponsored a bill to provide $3.5 million to provide an upgrade for the lab.

Joe Cutter is the afternoon news anchor on New Jersey 101.5.

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