Beetles invading Sellwood yards were released by state to fight - KPTV - FOX 12

Beetles invading Sellwood yards were released by state to fight invasive weed

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A species of beetle released in the Oaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge to fight an invasive weed has moved into a southeast Portland neighborhood in search of a new food source, the Oregon Department of Agriculture confirmed Tuesday.

Thousands of small beetles started showing up in the Sellwood neighborhood Friday night, flying through the air chewing up rose bushes and crepe myrtle.

“As you ride through them they get in your ears, your arms,” said Larry Watland, who was riding his bike near Sellwood Riverfront Park. “I mean, they’re just all over you. It’s crazy, I’ve never seen this here.”

Kris Heiberg described finding so many beetles on her doors and windows, she doesn’t want to leave the house.

“It’s been pretty bad,” she said. “We’ve kind of been held captive in our home.”

The ODA called the migration unprecedented.

The Galerucella leaf beetle is supposed to only feed on purple loofestrife, an invasive weed that crowds native plants. It has been used as a biocontrol instead of herbicide in Oregon since 1992 and was successfully introduced in Oaks Bottom in 2013.

The ODA blamed what’s happening in Sellwood on a “perfect storm” of factors, including hotter and drier weather conditions and favorable water conditions that created a long growing season for the beetles.

The larger than expected beetle population exhausted their food source and then moved to the neighborhood in search of a new food source.

The beetles are expected to die off in the next few days and they do not anticipate this happening next summer, the ODA said.

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