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Projects > Purple Loosestrife Beetle Release Program

The Spruce Creek association is working in partnership with the Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge of Wells, Maine to participate in their program of distributing Galerucella beetles, a biological control agent for purple loosestrife, a noxious invasive weed. Releasing biocontrol beetles throughout the range of loosestrife will allow native plants to re-establish themselves on invaded wetlands, restoring the biological viability of these important ecosystems. The program was initiated in the Spruce Creek watershed in 2007 with four release sites, and has increased to six sites in 2008.

You can also view of a video of the recent news report about our beetle rearing program here at Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refugen from NECN. (If you liked that one... Here's Joe Anderson of York County Soil & Water Conservation district releasing beetles for Loosestrife control in Portland courtesy of WMTW.)

What is "purple loosestrife"?
Purple Loosestrife is an agressive perennial of European origin found throughout Canada and the United States. It blooms from July to September - and puts on quite a beautiful purple show when in bloom. It is often found in marshes, along rivers, ditches and wet meadows. Usually, areas well suited for cattails are prime habitat for the plant.

Purple loosestrife is a serious concern because it displaces native wetland plants and can become the dominant plant, thereby reducing species diversity and changing the ecosystem of a wetland. A single purple loosestrife plant with multiple stems can produce between one and two million seeds that are easily dispersed along rivers and waterways. Even a few purple loosestrife plants pose a serious threat to an entire wetland. Once purple loosestrife becomes established, it soon clogs channels which carry water to growing crops. Dense infestations of purple loosestrife also crowd out native plants used by wildlife for food and nesting habitat. Birds, fish and wetland animals will not inhabit areas infested with purple loosestrife.

What do the beetles do?
Purple loosestrife can be controlled biologically by using natural enemies such as insects. Approved insects like the beetles used in the Rachel Carson program are released on purple loosestrife infestations.

Each female can lay up to 500 eggs during the period of mid-May to mid-July. Larvae emerge from eggs in 7-10 days, and feed in and on shoot timps. The larvae feed and molt for approximately. three weeks before moving down into the soil to pupate. It takes around 7-10 days for the young adults to emerge, which is typically from July to September. It takes approximately 5-10 years of raising and harvesting and releasing the insects to develop a colony that effectively controls an area of purple loosestrife.

The leaf-feeding beetles (Galerucella spp) reduce the growth and reproduction of purple loosestrife. The adult beetles feed on the leaves of purple loosestrife and lay their eggs. Once the eggs have hatched, the larvae feed on the leaves and stems as they move down into the soil. The larvae cause the most damage to the plant and reduce the number of seeds produced.

Spruce Creek Watershed Beetle Release Program
In 2007, the first year participating in the program, we identified four sites for release in the Spruce Creek Watershed. In 2008 we've added two new sites to the program. We'd like to thank the land owners who've given us permissoin to put the pots of beetles on their site for the next few years to monitor the progress, including Mark Dellapasqua of Coachman's Inn and Yummies Candy store, John Robinson & Lis Anderson, Jacquelyn Nooney of Flower Company Properties, the Shepard's Cove Condominium Association, and Juliet Smith.

How Can You Help?
If you spot a site with loosestrife growing, please let us know and we'll contact the land owners to see if the site might be included in future program. July and August are the best times to spot the plant as it is in full bloom. If you've found a location, note it down and let us know.

Learn More
If you are interested in learning more about these beetles and how they are raised, check out these resouces:

 

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