Press Release

August 21, 2018

Successful beetle release at Julian Wetlands

By Mark Nale

A small group from Wildlife for Everyone Foundation and members of the media gathered to watch over 600 Galerucella calmariensis beetles released at the Julian Wetlands this spring. The wetlands is part of a man-made marsh in Centre County that is owned by the foundation and part of the highly-anticipated Wildlife Center that is set for ground breaking in summer 2019.

The mitigation wetlands was being invaded by the alien purple loosestrife -- a pretty but highly invasive wetland plant. Each plant can produce thousands of seeds a year and the dense masses of stems make the wetland unattractive to waterfowl. It grows from three to ten feet high and is adaptable to many types of wet soils.

"Purple loosestrife is an invasive species that can entirely choke out the native plant community in a wetland and destroy the functions and benefits of that ecosystem," noted Colleen DeLong, Habitat Steward Biologist for ClearWater Conservancy.

Galerucella calmariensis, better known as the loosestrife leaf beetle, is one of two species of beetles used to control the invasive loosestrife.

According to WHM Group wetlands scientist Peter Backhaus, who supervised the May 23 beetle release, loosestrife beetles were studied extensively and found to be safe. They provide a better alternative than chemicals or manual extraction.

"Our Wildlife For Everyone wetlands property has some wonderful biodiversity and we want to continue enhancing the habitat for all wildlife," president Jerry Regan commented. "If left unchecked, the non-native purple loosestrife will in time destroy the wetland. We elected to step out of the box and use a biological control to help us solve the problem, rather than chemicals."

The beetles -- housed approximately 105 per container -- were released at three pre-selected locations on the wetland. Almost immediately, they started eating loosestrife leaves and mating.

"They have reproduced several times this summer, and there should be thousands eating the loosestrife by the end of summer," Backhaus remarked.

"The loosestrife leaf beetle, a native of Eurasia, has been released in at least 27 states and in Canada with no adverse affects," Backhaus said. However, the beetles are expensive. According to Backhaus, over 600 of them were shipped overnight from Montana and released at Julian Wetlands, costing about $1.25 each.

"A few years ago, you could buy the beetles fairly cheaply, but there are fewer growers now and they are quite expensive," Backhaus stated.

Backhaus is making regular checkups on the beetles and reporting back to the Wildlife Foundation.

At his most recent visit in late August, Backhaus observed evidence of defoliation on most of the loosestrife plants, and even found some smaller plants that looked too damaged to bloom. He's quick to note that the beetles are fighting an uphill battle this year. "It looks like the total area of loosestrife has expanded. I would attribute this to the recent record rainfall this summer in PA and State College, and we still have one month to go."

Regan commented that he is pleased with the effort. "Despite the loosestrife expansion due to the unusually high rainfall, it seems that our experiment is working and those little beetles are doing their job eating away at the invasive loosestrife."

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