An old enemy and a not-so-old ally

Back when I was a farm kid, I spent several days one summer spreading chemical by hand throughout a big, deep coulee in which leafy spurge had become a major problem. The chemical helped, but only temporarily: the spurge soon returned in force.

Years later, after I’d left home, flea beetles were released in that coulee. The insects, which attacked leafy spurge’s tenacious root system, did more long-term damage to spurge than the chemicals.

Leafy spurge is an old, familiar enemy in the Upper Midwest. It can take over large areas of land and choke out all other vegetation, especially in hilly pastures where chemicals are hard to apply. Flea beetles, introduced from Europe, have been a big help in controlling leafy spurge.

But area residents planning to make use of the bugs this summer will need to do so sooner than usual. Read the story in the June 11 issue of Agweek.

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