The beetle battle against purple loosestrife that began in May of 2007 continues in May of 2011.
Like with so many non native invasive species “control” is all we have to work with. In this case that is the good news, because in so many others we have no control at all or if we do it is a chemical control. But we need to work to keep the news good and the invader under control.
I want to share a little of what I have learned from this effort over the past four years. First that there are always some folks ready and willing to get involved on a worthy project. Absolutely great and I thank each and every person and organization for their effort! One thing that had me wondering almost from the beginning is if the control is so good why is it I can go back every year to some of my original sources for beetles for more beetles. I remember going back to one very infested spot one year to gather some beetles and there were absolutely none to be found or purple loosestrife. The only variable I noticed was that when there is around a foot of water the Loosestrife is growing in the beetles were not very effective but beetles are generally there. When there is little water or at a shore line the beetles were effective and not there the next year. The good news from this is I/we can always get beetles for spreading around. Why would that be because in most cases the beetles we place effectively reducing the infestation allowing native plants to regain their natural strength? I contacted an expert at MSU and shared what I am experiencing and found that is their experience too. It has something to do with the winter hibernation of the beetle and I’m not sure hibernation is the correct term but I suspect you understand what I mean. It is important to understand and remember that this beetle eats absolutely nothing else so eats itself out of house and home.
So here we go again in May 2011 spreading the Purple Loosestrife control beetle Gallerucella calmariensis, and volunteers are the key again. This program has lots of proven success and Jim Biener likes to say “is fun, easy and rewarding” to do.
An imported beetle that eats only the invasive Purple Loosestrife plant is used to allow restoration of native wetland plants such as the very visible cattails and others. Jim Biener and Bob Stegmier of the Dwight Lydell Chapter of the Izaak Walton League of America and the Rogue River Watershed Council are looking for volunteers with good eyesight and steady hands to again collect these beetles and spread them into loosestrife infested wetlands during late May. Jim, at (616) 361-1353, coordinates the efforts in the townships of Cannon and Grattan. Bob Stegmier, (616) 866-4769, coordinates the efforts for the Ike’s with the Rouge River Watershed Council which works in the Rogue River watershed. Bob asks you to feel free and contact him because he is a notoriously bad record keeper and likely has misplaced many on the names of past years volunteers. I can also be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I would like to expand this effort with a new wrinkle and suggest this added mode of operation. Let’s try to get some neighborhood groups together to operate on their own. I see it working like this. You gather some beetles with neighbors from a place we placed some last year and move them to an un-infested spot. After this is done go someplace for a cup of coffee or tea, maybe even a burger and share your experience with folks in the next booth. If you try this idea please let me know how it went.
Here is a little primer on how the beetles operate. Adult beetles emerge from their winter hibernation ready to mate and produce 500 larvae. These larvae eat loosestrife blossoms and seeds while the adults eat the leaves. It is a one two punch on the loosestrife plant making our effort very effective. This collection usually is done in the coolness of the morning and is completed by noon therefore the coffee, tea and maybe a burger…
Good annual progress is steadily being made through the watershed and the townships. While this plant is pretty with its tall slender purple spikes it is still very much a plant that if left uncontrolled would significantly alter the native plant structure of our wetlands. Native Michigan wetland species find very little nutritional or other value in the plant and the beauty is short lived lasting only a few weeks in July before the blossom and stalk structure dies and turns to a dark brown for the rest of the year. The damage continues all growing season long as the plant crowds out native plants. The result is that Michigan native wetlands species loose their “preferred” living habitat.
It will soon be time for action. Let’s be at it neighbors.
Thanks, Jim Biener and Bob Stegmier