August 10, 2009

Beetle joins Colorado fight against weeds

A leaf-eating Chinese beetle is the newest ally in the fight to rid Colorado of an invasive weed threatening native life, a state agriculture official says.

Dan Bean, the Colorado Department of Agriculture's director of biological pest control, said 100,000 yellow-striped Diorhabda beetles have already been released along the Arkansas River to help contain the spread of a voracious weed called tamarisk, The Denver Post said Monday.

We want them to feed like crazy, Bean said of the beetles.

An additional 100,000 of the insects will be released this week on tamarisk thriving along the river to rid the river's banks of the weed.

As tamarisk grows and begins needing more water, the weed can threaten native plant life such as willows and cottonwoods.

Bean told the Post the beetles do pose a potential threat to the southwestern willow flycatcher, since the endangered bird has been known to use tamarisk for nesting purposes.

I need to follow the rules put out there by government agencies, Bean said of the potential risk. But I also have to worry about the people in Colorado who need this as a tamarisk control measure. Sometimes, there are conflicting interests.