Locals Fight Noxious Weed With Beetles


The weather turned sunny and warmer just in time for this year’s flea beetle public collection day held recently near Grass Range, Montana, and everyone who participated was pleased with the day’s catch.

Landowners are increasingly using flea beetles as a welcome addition to the ongoing battle against leafy spurge.  The beetle’s larvae feed on the plant’s root system, which weakens the plant and inhibits its ability to spread and produce viable seeds. 

It can take several years for a colony of flea beetles to establish and become effective, however once that happens, the results can be very impressive.

“Most landowners who gather flea beetles and release them on their property mark the release site with a fence post or some other object as a means of measuring their spread and impact.  Several years into the effort, most landowners see an increase in the number of flea beetles and a decrease in the amount of leafy spurge,” according to Lowell Hassler, a BLM natural resource specialist who works extensively with noxious weed control.

 “We caught a break with the weather just in time for our public collection day because the beetles prefer warm to hot days.  Warmer weather brings the adult bugs out on the plants were they are easier to catch in a sweep net. This year each participant took home about 6,000 of the smallish brown or black flea beetles (a shot glass will hold about 3,000 beetles),” offered Mike Barrick, a BLM range technician who also works with BLM’s noxious weed control program.

The public collection day was organized by the Bureau of Land Management and hosted by John and Nancy Schultz and Randy and Sonja Miller.

We had about 28 landowners attend this year’s collection day and they were all eager to start new flea beetle colonies on their property or supplement colonies they started earlier.   “The BLM and all the landowners who participated this year, or in previous years, sincerely appreciate the Schultzs and Millers hosting this event on their ranch,” according Hassler.


Source: BLM

Posted by Kaci Switzer

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