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BEETLES HELPING THIN OUT WEEDS ALONG WEBER RIVER

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Thousands of German-native beetles have been scattered along the Weber River to help thin out weeds that are choking wetland vegetation and destroying waterfowl habitat.

Some 13,000 adult and pupating beetles, along with 1,000 weevil eggs, were released in the area last month by Weber County weed abatement supervisor Jim Parks and Utah State University agriculture agent James Barnhill.The pair hope the bugs will eat the purple loosestrife along the river, west of Ogden. The release of the beetles was approved by the Animal Plant Health Inspection Service.

Purple loosestrife, purple-flowered weed that grows up to 7 feet tall, is threatening to take over the wetlands.

Weed specialists had been on the lookout for the purple loosestrife, which has infested Oregon and Idaho, Barnhill said.

Two patches of the weed were first spotted in 1992 in drainage ditches in the northern part of the county, Parks said. Although the purple loosestrife were sprayed with chemicals, the weeds popped up two years ago along 11 miles of the Weber River's waterfowl management area.

Since the German beetles thin the weeds in Europe, they should be able to do the same in Utah, Barnhill said.

"When you come across it there, the plant is usually stunted and in small patches," he said. "We don't need to totally eliminate it, we just need to reduce and control it."

Barnhill and Parks have also set loose bronze flea beetles around Pineview in 1992 and black flea beetles near Snowbasin last month to target leafy spurge, an inedible plant that was crowding out sagebrush in the areas.