Sunday, November 8, 2020

Kids take part in invasives control with release of leaf-munching beetles

An adult beetle feeding on a plant

An adult Galerucella beetle feeds on a potted purple loosestrife plant inside a hatchery.

Hamilton County students got a first-hand look at controlling the spread of invasive plants, thanks to the Hamilton County Soil and Water Conservation District’s Leaf Munchers project. As part of the program, kids reared and released leaf-munching beetles to keep the invasive wetland plant purple loosestrife in check.

Students started out learning about invasive species.

Students learn about invasive species

Students and Water Conservation District Manager Caitlyn Stewart during an educational event held on Oxbow Lake.

“An invasive species is a species that has been introduced into an area and causes harm,” said Lake Pleasant Central School student Carter Orr.

“I learned that purple loosestrife is an invasive species,” Lake Pleasant Central School Bentley Lane said.  “It takes over other plants that are native and clogs waterways.  Beetles eat purple loosestrife leaves so they cannot reproduce.”

Purple loosestrife has invaded Hamilton County’s wetlands, ditches, gardens, roadsides, and shorelines. Harmful impacts include reduced biodiversity of native plants, degraded wetland habitat, and clogged waterways.

Identification features of this invasive plant include magenta flowers that bloom from July through September, square stems, and lance-shaped leaves.  Plants can tower over five feet in height.

Leaf-feeding beetles belonging to the genus Galerucella are excellent biocontrol agents of purple loosestrife.  They feed on loosestrife leaves and prevent plants from photosynthesizing, or making food.

Beatles eat on invasive plants

Beatles make their way out of a hatchery and into the wild To eat the leaves of purple loosestrife, helping to control invasive plants.

Beetles were reared in homemade hatcheries at the District’s office.  Staff then transplanted purple loosestrife plants into pots then placed them in wading pools filled with water to create the perfect wetland habitat.   Adult beetles were released into the nurseries, reproduced, and their populations exploded. Then the beetles will eat purple loosestrife, decrease invasive plant populations, and continue to thrive until food supplies run low

After 60 days of living in the hatcheries, it was time to release the beetles.  A beetle release event was held at the Oxbow Inn where purple loosestrife aggressively grows along the shoreline of Oxbow Lake.

There are many partners to thank for the success of this project, including the International Paper Foundation; Lake Pleasant Central School; Alex Bielli, Hamilton County Soil and Water Conservation District Water Quality Intern; Barbara McIlroy; the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation; Nick Rowell, Warren County Soil and Water Conservation District; and the Adirondack Watershed Institute.

Click here to watch a video about the project. To learn more about the District’s work, visit www.hcswacd.com.

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Caitlin Stewart is Conservation Educator at the Hamilton County Soil and Water Conservation District (HCSWCD). One of HCSWCD’s largest programs is their Invasive Species program and Caitlin will be sharing her field experiences, as well as the efforts and results of forest surveys, and monitoring and management.

Caitlin has deep roots in Hamilton County as both her grandparents purchased property on Sacandaga Lake and Lake Pleasant in the 1960s. Her parents met and were married in Lake Pleasant, and she spent summers and vacations there. She’s been a full time resident since 2008 and is an avid hiker, skier, paddler, runner and biker.




3 Responses

  1. Boreas says:

    I am assuming the beetles being introduced are a native species? If so, why the need to introduce them – just to increase their population – or aren’t they normally found in this area?

  2. Bill Ott says:

    To Caitlin Stewart,
    Great article and an even better video (https://vimeo.com/426368085). It answered all my questions but one – does the genus Galerucella munch on Cannabis sativa. Only joking, of course, but you do not state that muncher does not munch on other plants though on can assume that from the video.
    Also before I hang up, what do I do if I see loosestrife in the woods? And which one are you in the film?

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