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On Tuesday, July 22nd, Saint Croix County Resource Management released a biological control agent to help control an infestation of invasive Purple Loosestrife on the Apple River just north of Somerset.
Purple Loosestrife is a major concern to our county’s wetlands and waterways. This rapidly spreading plant severely reduces biodiversity which threatens many rare and endangered plants found in our wetlands. Many species of wetland animals that depend on native plants for food and shelter also suffer including Baltimore Butterflies, Marsh Wrens, and Least Bitterns. Large infestations of Loosestrife can choke out waterways and even impede boat travel. Millions of dollars are spent to preserve our wetlands for their ecological value and if Purple Loosestrife is allowed to take over, that money will have been wasted.
There are multiple methods for the control of Purple Loosestrife, including biological control, herbicide application, cutting, and pulling. Biological control has been found to be the most cost effective, least labor intensive, and the most effective method for reducing Loosestrife populations. The state of Wisconsin has been using European beetles as a biological control for Purple Loosestrife since 1994. The two most popular beetles used eat the leaves and stems of the plant thus reducing the size and seed output of the plant giving native plants a chance to regain control. These beetles have been carefully researched for over 20 years and have been found to only feed on Purple Loosestrife and pose no threat to native plants or agricultural crops. Once a population of Loosestrife has been reduced, the beetles will fly off to find new Loosestrife stands or die.
This is St. Croix County’s first attempt to control Purple Loosestrife on this particular site. With the help of the Wisconsin DNR and local volunteers, approximately 7,000 beetles were raised and released onto an infested island on the Apple River’s “Riverdale Flowage,” just south of the intersection of County Rd C and 93rd St. This process will be repeated for the next couple years until a self-sustaining population is established. Purple Loosestrife will never be completely eliminated from Wisconsin, however, with the continued use of biological and traditional control methods, and with the help of the community, we can restore a more natural balance between Loosestrife and our native vegetation.
If you have any questions or comments concerning invasive species, please contact Ben Eichman at St. Croix County Resource Management (715) 531-1922 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.