County seeks volunteers in fight
against purple loosestrife
By Eric LaRose
The Eagle Herald, Marinette and Menominee, WI
MARINETTE -- It seems out of place, the purple accent
of color in the ditches along the roads and shorelines
of northern Wisconsin, and quite frankly it is.
While it may look pretty, the plant, purple loosestrife,
is rapidly degrading wetlands, and diminishing their value
as wildlife habitats.
Now, Marinette County is applying two techniques to find
the aggressive invaders, and destroy them.
Purple loosestrife arrived in the United States back
in the early 1800s when they were brought to the country
by European settlers, who thought they provided a nice
splash of color in their flower gardens.
Unfortunately, the plants, which multiply rapidly and
are hard to get rid of, have spread across much of Canada
and the United States and are threatening hundreds of
species of plants, birds, mammals, reptiles, insects,
fish, amphibians and are encroaching on farmer's crops
and pasture land.
Now finding and destroying the plants are high priorities.
Amanda Kostner, Education Coordinator with the Marinette
County Land and Water Conservation Office, said two plans
the county is using include getting volunteers to travel
the county's waterways, looking for the purple loosestrife,
and raising and releasing beetles to eat the plants.
"The two kind of intertwine," said Kostner
in an interview. "Basically, they are doing the survey
to find out where the loosestrife is, so they can, when
they do raise the beetles, they know where to let them
The purple loosestrife surveys are done in conjunction
with a program developed by the Wisconsin Wetlands Association.
Kostner said that last year, groups of people in cars
drove around the county looking for the purple pest, and
mapping where they found them. This year, since the plant
can thrive around streams and lakes, they are asking for
help from people with boats.
"We have one group that is connected to the Middle
Inlet Moonshiners 4-H Club, and they're getting their
teens involved," said Kostner who added that the
group would be concentrating their efforts on Lake Noquebay
and its inlets and outlets.
They are still looking for more volunteers and the information
volunteers gather will also be available on the Internet.
As Kostner said, the information received will be used
to map out where they will release the Galerucella beetle,
which feeds exclusively on the loosestrife plants.
Kostner said that the process of raising the beetles
isn't very complicated and only requires a few materials.
"The beetles reproduce quite a bit. When your raising
them, you start out with 10 beetles, and you start off
with 10 (loosestrife) plants, so they have something to
eat while they are growing. You have to grow them in a
contained area," said Kostner. "You end up with
100 that you release out into the areas with loosestrife."
Once the beetles have been released they eat the plants.
So far, the beetles have been shown to do a better job
than pulling the loosestrife by hand or using a herbicide.
Both pulling the plants and poisoning them do work, but
they don't work well.
"(The beetles) been found to be the most effective
way to control it. Purple loosestrife spreads really fast,
and to go out and pull it by hand would be impossible,
there's no way you're pulling all that out," said
Kostner. "These beetles, they only eat loosestrife,
so when they've eaten themselves out of house and home,
their populations will decrease."
Kostner did say that there is no way to completely wipe
out the purple loosestrife plant, but they are trying
to prevent the plants from spreading and destroying habitats
For further information on volunteering or the Galerucella
beetle call Amanda Kostner at (715) 732-7784.
To view maps of the affected areas, consult the Great
Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission's Web site,