THE GREAT CACTUS WAR // -->

 

Welcome to the homepage of the forthcoming book, THE GREAT CACTUS WAR.

Newsclip from a Queensland newspaper @ 1912.

This is the true story of the most vicious plant invasion in human history and about a small, but determined, team of self-taught scientists who finally beat the “spiny green octopus.”

Researched and written by award-winning author, Terry Domico.

Imagine seeing a giant thicket of cactus, up to thirty feet high, extending as far as the eye can see... and beyond. At the peak of Australia's prickly-pear plague in 1925, the invader held more than sixty million acres within its spiny grip. That's an area larger than all of Great Britain. Imagine also that this colossal cactus patch was spreading by over a million acres a year (more than 285 acres an hour) and that it's consuming farmland, homesteads, roads, and even whole villages in its path.

A tale of science fiction? Not at all... this actually happened.

Prickly pear cactus is native only to the Americas, but it was brought to Australia in 1788 along with the first shiploads of convict laborers. The fledgling colony needed an export industry and it was thought that this would be the perfect place to raise cochineal (the cactus parasite that produced the scarlet dye for the British soldiers' coats). Unfortunately, the cochineal died off... but the cactus lived on and began to spread.

and spread...

...eventually evoking international concern. Here's briefly what happened:

Efforts at controlling the pear, including burning, ploughing, and poisoning, were unavailing. The government even offered a $1,500,000 prize (in today's money) for anyone who could come up with a practical solution to beat the pear.

Eventually a group of mostly self-taught scientists based in Brisbane found the solution. After launching a series of exploratory expeditions into the cactus regions of the USA, Mexico, and South America...

... they discovered a little moth in Argentina, called Cactoblastis, whose larvae might eat the pear.

   

Millions of Cactoblastis eggs were placed in some of the worst pear thickets.

Within months drastic changes were seen. The pear was dying!

Soon the Australian landscape dramatically changed as the pear abated under the onslaught of the voracious Cactoblastis larvae. Cactoblastis was hailed a hero and a savior. Parades were held in its honor and a public building dedicated to its name.

Without giving away too much of the plot (after all, we want you to read the book) this good bug went "bad" along the way. It eventually found a path into the southeastern United States and began devastating native prickly-pear.

So...what happens next?

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