chows down on loosestrife
MONCTON - Scientists have discovered the purple loosestrife's
achille's heel - a tiny beetle that likes to snack on
the wild weed.
Loosestrife is a wetland's nightmare, it spreads uncontrollably
and has tremendous flower power. Once established in a
marsh, it threatens all other plant life. "It has
become a real problem in that it has invaded wetlands
and by doing so it can actually outcompete native plant
species," says John Wile, of Ducks Unlimited Canada.
The purple loosestrife kills biodiversity and the animal
life that depends on it. The plant has overtaken wetlands
in southern Ontario, Quebec and its making inroads in
Wile is trying to slow this seemingly unstoppable plant.
All hopes rest on a tiny bug, the Galerucella beetle,
that likes to devour the loosestrife. Ducks Unlimited
began releasing the insects in 1996 and since then, more
than 65,000 have been set loose on the loosestrife.
More recently, they released larvae instead of adults
beetles, and scientists are seeing the impact. "This
is what we've been waiting for for five years, some real
plant damage as a result of the insect activity,"
he says. There's actually a larvae feeding this plant
right now, as well as others. And they've stressed this
plant considerably. You can tell all the green material
has been destroyed."
Students from the Tantramar Wetlands Centre are helping
Ducks Unlimited quantify the impact of the Galerucella
beetle by recording egg mass and counting larvae and adults
beetles. "With the information we collect we'll be
able to figure out what time is ideal to move larvae from
one site to another and release it to aid with problems
of purple loosestrife in other areas," says Megan
Mitton, of the Tantramar Wetlands Centre.
The purple loosestrife has been around for a long time
and has a tremendous seed bed in area wetlands. So, Wile
cautions that even with the Galerucella beetle there's
a long battle ahead.