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Aerial Attack on bridal Creeper - Bellarine to Breamlea (2008)

The Bridal Creeper Biocontrol Working Group launched into action again in September 2008. Barwon Coast with City of Greater Geelong, Swan Bay Integrated Catchment Management Committee and volunteers from local groups, organised for a helicopter to spray Bridal Creeper rust fungus spore-water over targeted infestations at Buckley Park Foreshore (western end), Ocean Grove Foreshore, Ocean Grove Spit, Barwon Heads Foreshore and Breamlea Spit and Foreshore.

Bridal Creeper foliage infected by rust fungus was harvested early in the morning, on the day of the aerial spraying, from previously established release sites, by staff and volunteers from Friends of Edwards Point, Friends of Buckley Park and Breamlea Residents Association. The foliage was soaked and sieved in rainwater in large tubs to produce rust fungus spore-water. The spore-water was pumped into the tank of a small helicopter, which then flew low over dense dune vegetation, spraying a mist of droplets which penetrated the tree canopy to the Bridal Creeper underneath.

“It has been gratifying to see how much the rust fungus has spread. We have noticed this year that there has been a significant reduction in Bridal Creeper plant growth in areas where rust has been established for a few years.” said Friends of Buckley Park volunteer, Elizabeth Thomas. “It really does seem to be making a difference.” “Spraying was carried out on a day when drift was minimised. Signposts were put up on beach access tracks to inform beach-walkers, a notice was placed in the local paper and letters were delivered to nearby residents prior to the day.” said Warren Chapman, Reserves Manager at Barwon Coast. “We have recognised the emergence of rust fungus in areas outside the immediate flight path, potentially carried by the wind or other means, once the initial onset of the rust fungus has occurred.”

The aerial-spraying project builds on other methods of Bridal Creeper biocontrol carried out since 2000 on the Bellarine Peninsula. Leafhoppers and rust fungus were released and established at over 74 nursery sites on the Bellarine Peninsula, with assistance from schools, community and local land managers.