Tamarisk beetles will begin annual feast on invasive plant along Colorado River

A Tamarisk Beetle at the Palisade Insectary.

The Colorado River corridor will turn brown this year. Dan Bean, director of the Palisade Insectary, guarantees it.

But not to worry, it is just a sign that the beetles have landed — the tamarisk beetle, that is.

The little critter has a craving for tamarisk, an invasive species of plant that has clogged riverways throughout the West, causing many problems and crowding out local species.

The beetles, released in Utah a few years back, already have turned stretches of Colorado River in the Moab area and here in Mesa County brown. The Dolores River, close to Utah, has enjoyed the same benefits.

“The river corridor, it will turn brown as the tamarisk will turn brown, a golden brown,” Bean
said. “It can be a little shocking, but it has been happening in the Moab area for the last couple years and the Dolores last year.”

The beetles migrated naturally from Utah to Colorado. Their anticipated blooming along Mesa County’s stretch of the Colorado River should be seen from the state line past Palisade, but probably not up into the foothills, Bean said.

The browning of the tamarisk will not mean the plants are finished.

“It takes a long time for tamarisk to go down. It takes years,” he said, adding the plant’s roots are deep and full of energy reserves, so they can resprout year after year.

“Tamarisk will never be completely eradicated,” Bean said.

Keeping the plant in check will require constant attention and replanting of native species, he said. The tamarisk beetle eats tamarisk only and would not harm the native plants, nor would it have any effect on other nonnative species, such as Russian olive and knapweed.


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