Beetles versus leafy spurge:
before and after
Sheep and Beetles Control Leafy
Spurge By Kathryn Barry Stelljes
June 19, 2001
Land owners in hot, dry areas like much of the Great Plains may
be able to control the noxious weed leafy spurge in as few as three years using
sheep and flea beetles, Agricultural
Research Service scientists report.
ARS and cooperating scientists will demonstrate the technique to
about 300 land managers at Spurgefest
II on June 19-21 in Medora, N.D. Spurgefest II is the seventh field day for
The Ecological Areawide Management of Leafy Spurge, or
TEAM Leafy Spurge.
Unlike other grazing animals, sheep actually prefer leafy spurge
to many other plants. The sheep eat the leaves, while flea beetle larvae damage
the roots. Together, the team has taken out spurge on a 640-acre demonstration
site in Sentinel Butte and native grasses have started to return. The beetles
don't thrive in sandy or wet areas, though, and ARS is looking for other
biological control agents for those environments.
Flea beetles (Aphthona lacertosa) were imported as biological
control agents against leafy spurge in the 1980's. The invasive weed, which
first appeared in the United States in 1827, infests at least 5 million acres
of rangeland in 35 states and several Canadian provinces. The area invaded by
leafy spurge is doubling every decade.
In 1988, USDA and
North Dakota State
scientists released 88 beetles in the Valley City, N.D., area. Since then,
hundreds of millions of the flea beetles have been collected and redistributed
all over North America from that site.
ARS established TEAM Leafy Spurge in 1997 as its first Areawide
Integrated Pest Management program to address a weed. The program--which ends
this year--is managed in cooperation with the USDA's
Animal and Plant Health Inspection
Service, and includes numerous state and federal agencies as well as four
ARS is the chief scientific research agency of the U.S.
Department of Agriculture.
Scientific contacts: Gerry Anderson and Chad Prosser,
ARS Northern Plains
Agricultural Research Laboratory, Sidney, Mont., phone (406) 433-2020, fax
(406) 433-5038, firstname.lastname@example.org,