Kiwi teenagers take experimental biological weed buster to the world

Gardeners and dog owners all over the country will be interested in a Northland experiment to get rid of the notorious weed tradescantia, or wandering willie.

The weed smothers gardens and is also toxic to dogs, causing skin irritations when they come in contact with it.

A group of Kerikeri teenagers have won awards for their work using Brazilian beetles to clear the weed - and now they're traveling to America to share their findings.

The six small-town school girls call themselves the Tradescantia Terminators, when really they're the guardians of a precious piece of nature.

"We want it to restore the Wairo stream to a native corridor and see the native seedlings coming through," student Charlie Potter told Newshub.

And that's exactly what's happening. It's no longer smothered in a thick blanket of the pest plant; instead, it's thinning out leaf by leaf, as tiny Brazilian beetles eat their way through the weed.

The whole project began as a community problem solving experiment. They were given special rights to use the beetles to attack a weed most New Zealand gardeners will be aware of.

"It's such a hearty weed, it's very resilient so it's really hard to get rid of," Charlie said.

The beetles became the best attack for the problem that is so widespread in New Zealand, removing it manually or with chemicals just isn't an option.

The tradescantia weed is a problem in the US, parts of Europe and Australia. But New Zealand is the first place using a biological control to get rid of it.

That's why the girls' work in Kerikeri is being recognised internationally. In June they'll travel to the US to share their work.

"They're not just going to be raising awareness to their community also to the world about how New Zealand is so innovative in solving this problem," teacher Sandra Leaming told Newshub.

And the students are thrilled about their global journey.

"When we started three years ago we never thought we would be going to America and reach this many people, and sharing our project - it's really exciting," Charlie said.