Durango Telegraph - Beetlemania â?? Tamarisk beetle continues to spread
Beetlemania â?? Tamarisk beetle continues to spread

A small beetle from Central Asia is defying lawsuits and a cease and desist order and continuing to turn back the spread of tamarisk in the Southwest.

In 2004, tamarisk leaf beetles were transported to Moab and the Horsethief bench outside of Fruita. The transplants – discovered in Kazakhstan after a decades-long effort – immediately started thriving at the expense of tamarisk. In recent years, they have spread through the region and chewed through many of the invasive trees in their wake. Most recently, the bee

tles have made their way up the Dolores drainage, along the Mancos River and could already be eating salt cedar in the Animas River drainage. In recent weeks, they’ve also been spotted in the Grand Canyon and as far West as Nevada.

However, the bugs are feeding without permission. In August last year, the U.S. Department of Agriculture revoked permits to move the beetles across state borders and banned release of the beetles in nine Western states.

The orders were the result of a lawsuit

filed by the Center for Biological Diversity and the Maricopa Audubon Society. The suit alleged that the tamarisk leaf beetle is contributing to the decline of the endangered southwestern willow flycatcher.

Levi Jamison, a Durangoan charged with mapping the beetles’ spread, noted that the lawsuit has done nothing to stop the spread of the beetles already on the ground.

“Tamarisk beetles are still moving rapidly south,” he said. “As of last year, they could be found on the entire northern half of the Colorado Plateau, and now

they’ve worked their way into Arizona.”

Jamison noted that the beetles are continuing to subsist exclusively on tamarisk, quelling concerns that the bugs might develop an appetite for native species. In addition, the Tamarisk Coalition is actively working with government agencies to monitor and manage the beetles’ spread.

“The beetles are going to significantly change Western riverways,” Jamison said. “Boaters will see some dramatic changes along shorelines in coming years.”

– Will Sands