Thousands of beetles released in Regina to help control invasive leafy spurge

Ten thousand spurge beetles were released in a green space on Tuesday in northeast Regina.

It’s part of an initiative by the city of Regina to control leafy spurge, a noxious weed which has spread across parts of the city and many areas of the province. The liquid inside the plant can cause some irritation to skin.

Ryan Johnston, supervisor of the city’s pest control department, said the European plant has become quite common in Saskatchewan, but admitted it was barely seen years ago. Johnston explained how leafy spurge prevents native plant life from growing in areas where the weed runs rampant.

“It takes over our native grasses and whatnot. It spreads so rapidly and roots quite deeply, so it takes away from the natural environment,” he discussed.

Leafy spurge. (Photo: Moises Canales/620 CKRM)

City of Regina workers helped release thousands of spurge beetles on July 6, 2021 in a green space near Ross Avenue and Winnipeg Street. (Photo: Moises Canales/620 CKRM)

Johnston mentioned how this type of beetle is one of the only animals that will eat these weeds other than goats since the plant has a poisonous product in it. He said releasing these beetles in different sections of the city will help beat down the plant.

While the beetle itself won’t do too much damage to the noxious plant, Johnston noted that the larvae will help limit its spread.

“The beetle will cause a little bit of top suppression, but it’s the larvae that will get into the root system,” explained Johnston. “The beetle will lay its eggs on the root system, the smaller larvae will get into the smaller root system to destroy that system, and as the larvae grows, it will feed on the larger root systems.”

The beetles strictly feed on leafy spurge and will not affect other plants, according to Johnston.

He added that it should help suppress the growth of these tenacious plants within the next two to three years in Regina.

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