What will happen when the biological control agent has reduced the pest population? The biological control agent is extremely unlikely to eliminate the pest. We hope that it will reduce the pest population to a very much lower level than at present, though we cannot predict how low because this is an experiment that has never before been performed. We expect that the population of the biocontrol agent will decline when it cannot find its target pest to attack, because this is what happened in all recorded examples.
Will the biological control agent broaden its diet in time and attack some species other than the target? There is an extremely slight chance of this. If such should occur, the change in diet should be very slight. For example, if a biological control agent which specializes in attacking a weevil species should broaden its diet, it might then attack a related weevil species which it did not previously attack. The chance of its attacking plants is about as remote as (say) a fish eagle switching to a plant diet.
How long will the research take? We do not know. What we are trying to do has obviously not been done before with this pest or its close relatives, so everything is experimental. With a higher level of funding than we have had, the search for natural enemies in Mexico and Central America could have started sooner and could have been much more extensive. On the other hand, we have been lucky to locate a promising candidate as biological control agent in so short a time at so little cost. How long it will take to unlock the means of rearing the biological control agent will depend in some measure on luck and inspiration. We can only hope that the potential biological control agent will not attack non-target species - if it is not specialized, we will have to begin again to look for another. The bottom line is that we cannot predict when we will have success, nor even the level of success.
How much will the research cost? We do not know. We are trying to operate on a minimal budget. Most funds during the first 10 years of the project were supplied by bromeliad enthusiasts. This is to the great credit of members of bromeliad societies, especially in Florida, whose environmental awareness evidently is very high. As a result of their efforts, the Florida Council of Bromeliad Societies received additional funds from the Endangered and Threatened Native Flora Grant program, administered by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services/Division of Plant Industry. This funding is limited and may not be enough to complete the project, depending on how long the research takes.