Agency declares victory over Japanese Beetle

After six years, the Mesa County Division of Pest Management is declaring victory over the Japanese Beetle in Palisade.

The beetles, which feast on orchard fruits and could have caused untold damage to crops and cost orchard owners thousands of dollars in pesticides, were detected in Palisade in 2003.

Pest Management hired a contractor and immediately began spraying residents’ lawns and trapping beetles to monitor how well the eradication efforts were going. This is the first year Pest Management caught zero beetles, and next year it has no plans to spray for the beetles. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration requires an area to have zero beetles captured for two years for it to declare an area Japanese Beetle free.

“It has not caused any damage because we hopped on it right away,” said Jude Sirota, weed and pest inspector for the county. “It did not escape Palisade.”

The importance of eradicating the beetles cannot be understated, Sirota said.

“They really like grapes, peaches, cherries and roses,” she said. “We would not have a peach festival or a wine festival if we don’t have the peaches and the grapes.”

Debbie Bulmer, eradication program coordinator, said she is confident the beetle has been eradicated from Palisade, “and we will have a zero catch again in 2010.”

Sirota said the beetles most likely arrived via a burlap wrapped tree bulb, most likely from the eastern United States, where the Japanese Beetle is prevalent.

The beetles’ larva live in soil and eat grass. The beetles are native to Japan and have natural predators. Here in the United States, the beetles have no such controls.

The six-year fight against the beetles in Palisade cost more than $300,000, which came from the Upper Grand Valley Pest Control’s mill levy, Sirota said. The district was formed in 1963.

In order to trap the beetles and treat lawns, the residents of Palisade had to cooperate with eradication efforts. Yellow and green traps, 415 this year, were spread throughout the community. Traps also were placed throughout the Grand Valley, but those outside of Palisade never caught any beetles, Sirota said.

Although locals are declaring success, Sirota said a re-emergence of the Japanese Beetle is possible.

“Denver has a problem with these beetles,” Sirota said. “So we are worried they are going to start coming over here.”


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