Tiny beetles, 5,000 of them, moved inside a single cup - the size that typically houses a morning jolt of coffee.
Soon after the lid was open, the beetles migrated onto Mark Rudningen's hands. Rudningen, Crow Wing County parks supervisor, received the bug shipment from the Minnesota Department of Agriculture. Consider them bio warriors in the fight against invasive plants.
"It's just an alternate way of controlling noxious weeds," Rudningen said.
The noxious weed in question is leafy spurge, which the European beetles prefer to eat. The USDA reports leafy spurge, native to Eurasia, was accidentally introduced to the U.S. in the early 1800s as a seed contaminant.
The invasive plant crowds out native species. Rudningen said the "exotic invader is extremely competitive and capable of completely displacing desirable plants native to the area."
Five thousand European beetles filled a small cup in Crow Wing County Parks Supervisor Mark Rudningen's hands earlier this season. The beetles were released in south Baxter as a biological way to control the spread of the invasive plant leafy spurge, which crowds out native species. Brainerd Dispatch/Renee Richardson
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The beetles are being used as a natural control measure.
Rudningen released the beetles in south Baxter near the Mississippi River on Highway 371 among other problem areas. Rudningen said the beetles are studied for years before the government allowed their release.
Rudningen has previously released bugs as part of bio control of noxious weeds at the Brainerd Lakes Regional Airport and he said hillsides previously covered in yellow blooms from an invasive species have been reduced by half if not more.
The beetles released here prefer leafy spurge and once that plant is no longer available the bugs will migrate to another area that supports it, Rudningen said.
"It's a good alternative to chemicals," he said, adding the use of the beetles is more cost effective than trying to spray fields and grassy corridors for miles. "We've got to come out with alternative methods of controlling this and we've been doing it. It's just another form of control."
RENEE RICHARDSON maybe reached at email@example.com or 855-5852.
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