Salt cedar control beetle turning into an introduced pest?

Are they killing the invasive salt cedar (tamarisk) too rapidly?

The Salt Lake Tribune has an alarming story how the beetle Diorhabda elongata , native to Kazakhstan and introduced recently to kill tamarisk, is doing it too rapidly. This is because there is apparently no plan to restore the native riparian vegetation the tamarisk crowded out years ago.

While this may be true, I am not convinced that the rapid elimination of the salt cedar is a bad thing. It has taken over thousands of miles of the rare riparian areas of the Southwest.

Pest-control beetle turning into pest? Environment » U. study document rapid defoliation caused by bug brought to control invasive tamarisk plant. By Brian Maffly. The Salt Lake Tribune.

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It should be noted that there are countless examples of plants, animals, and insects introduced to control foreign invaders becoming as bad as what they were intended to kill. I would venture to say there are almost always unintended side-effects, but there have been successes too.






  1. Virginia Avatar

    One of my many summer jobs was working with a biologist at the BLM and we spent a lot of the late summer and fall trying to get rid of salt cedar – by chopping and burning – to no avail. He hated the stuff and wanted to get rid of it in the worst way, but it had just spread too far. I am always amazed at the stupid ways agencies come up with to deal with problems such as the salt cedar and it seems to always come back to bite them in the butt! What were they thinking? After that summer, we visited our son in a new subdivision where the developers had planted tamarisk because it was so “ornamental!”

  2. Tom Page Avatar
    Tom Page

    Having worked hard to help eliminate tammies (successfully) from Eagle County, Colorado, several years ago, I am familiar with the grunt labor it takes to remove them. I can’t imagine how killing them too fast would create a greater problem, as there might only be one plant that I would fear as a replacement – cheatgrass.

    Tammies are a biological desert in my experience, and virtually impenetrable to anything larger than bobcat, practically. I’d much rather have to do restoration by the seat of my pants.

  3. Pronghorn Avatar

    According to the article, the problem of rapid tamarisk removal is the loss of shade–a lesson I painfully learned when I first moved to the Southwest. I thinned a bunch of overgrown shrubbery only to have everything else fry to death!

    I’m convinced that this sort of thing will be our undoing as a species–the sheer hubris of humans to think that we can manipulate/control, “fix” nature.

  4. Tom Page Avatar
    Tom Page

    We didn’t have that problem in Colorado – it was on the river in a canyon with reasonably moderate temperatures most of the year. The project was near the Interstate in some places though, and the road provided a fertile source for fun plants like Russian knapweed, thistle and that nasty whitetop.

    In some instances I agree with you on restoration projects, but I’ve seen too many efforts that have had a positive effect on biodiversity and native species to give it up.

  5. paulWTAMU Avatar

    We still try to introduce one species to deal with another? /facepalm. When has that worked?

  6. Mar Avatar

    We need the water that these weeds consume more than we need to worry about anything else here in mid-state Colorado. Where can one buy the beetles?


Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan’s Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of “Hiking Idaho.” He also wrote “Beyond the Tetons” and “Backpacking Wyoming’s Teton and Washakie Wilderness.” He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.

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