Common ragweed, Ambrosia artemisiifolia, is an invasive plant which is spreading across Europe. Because of illness caused by its allergenic pollen and competition with crops, it’s costing Europe an estimated €4.5 billion a year. The solution may lie with releasing non-native beetles. In this activity students evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of using biological control to halt the invasion of this alien plant.
Ecosystems (Interdependence): Suggest what might happen when an unfamiliar species is introduced into a food web (KS3 Science Syllabus)
Examine consequences: Identify possible consequences to particular habitats and animals (KS3 Science Syllabus)
Try the activity
Running the activity
Starter The scenario is introduced. Should we use insects to control the spread of ragweed in Europe?
Main Students find out information about ragweed and the beetle. They discuss advantages and disadvantages to come to a decision.
Plenary Students share their final decisions.
For detailed running notes, download the teachers guide.
Because ragweed needs a warm climate it is not considered a major problem in the UK – yet. It has been predicted that due to climate change ragweed populations could soon spread in northern Europe.
There are isolated populations in the UK but they are under control. However, the pollen can travel hundreds of kilometres so people are already suffering from the allergenic affects caused by ragweed growing on mainland Europe.
You may wish to play a short section (4:42-6:43) when showing slide 4. In French with English subtitles.
Including downloadable information in different languages.
Article about biological control of ragweed for teachers.