State Entomologist Discusses Saltceder Beetle Control

Saltceder beetle. Courtesy/PEEC

State Entomologist Carol A. Sutherland

PEEC News:

Have you ever heard of the saltceder plant and the saltceder beetle? The fascinating history of these unique species, the beetle’s introduction into the U.S. and its eventual migration into New Mexico are the subject of an upcoming presentation.

Dr. Carol A. Sutherland, an extension entomologist at New Mexico State University and state entomologist for the N.M. Department of Agriculture, will give the presentation at 7 p.m. Tuesday, March 11 at the Pajarito Environmental Education Center (PEEC). The program is free and no advance registration is necessary.

Sutherland identifies and reports on hundreds of insect samples for various clientele. She is a regular presenter, and creates various “entomology outreach programs” and specimen displays on entomology topics for all ages.

For NMDA, she provides entomological information as needed, in addition to identifying specimens submitted in routine regulatory inspections of nurseries and commodities for export or interstate commerce plus specimens associated with specific pest survey activities.

Since its introduction into the U.S. nearly 200 years ago, saltcedar has demonstrated it can out-compete native vegetation for available water, causing serious economic and environmental problems as this noxious weed has spread throughout the West. While saltcedar can be controlled with burning, herbicides, goats and mechanical means, these methods are temporary and expensive.

Since no effective natural enemies of saltcedar occurred in the U.S., scientists spent many years screening various natural enemies of saltcedar in Eurasia and North Africa.

They eventually identified several species of small host-specific leaf beetles as candidates for introduction. Following policies and procedures regulated under the National Environmental Policy Act and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service allowed a limited field release of certain saltcedar beetle species in the early 2000s in parts of the Southwest.

The beetles became established in parts of Utah, Colorado and Texas. They spread naturally into northwestern New Mexico by 2008, with additional sightings in the Jemez area by 2012. In 2013, the beetles were confirmed in eight additional New Mexico counties.

What will happen to the beetles, the saltcedar and the state’s ecosystems in the future? Find out at this PEEC presentation.