Entomologist discusses Saltcedar plant, beetles

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Hear the story of species of beetle, its introduction into the United States and eventual migration into New Mexico.
Dr. Carol A. Sutherland, an extension entomologist at New Mexico State University and also State Entomologist for the New Mexico Department of Agriculture, will give a presentation, 7 p.m. March 11 at the Pajarito Environmental Education Center. The program is free, and no advance registration is necessary.
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, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, limited field releases of certain saltcedar beetle species were approved 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. Questions arise like, what will happen to the beetles, the saltcedar and the state’s ecosystems in the future.
Annually, Sutherland identifies and reports on hundreds of insect samples for various clientele, is a regular presenter, and creates various “entomology outreach programs” and specimen displays on entomology topics for all ages.