Saskatchewan groups make bug collecting a priority

This summer has been a banner year for the distribution of leafy spurge beetles in Saskatchewan, as more than 400,000 beetles were dispersed on pastures and parks with spurge infestations.

There are two sites in the province where agencies and landowners can collect beetles — one south of Weyburn and another west of Moose Jaw, along the Trans-Canada Highway.

Harvey Anderson, who has contract with the Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities to oversee an invasive/alien plant program, organizes collection days annually at the two sites in early July.

“We probably had 40 different people collecting beetles (this year),” Anderson said, from agencies like Ducks Unlimited, the City of Regina, the Saskatchewan parks department, watershed groups and First Nation communities.

“The City of Regina collected at least 50,000 beetles, which were distributed within the city.”

At the collection sites, which have been used for two decades, volunteers, employees and private landowners gather beetles with sweep nets.

Unfortunately, collecting 50,000 beetles requires a bit of manpower, as each sweep snares about 10 insects.

“It takes some effort to get it done,” Anderson said.

“We expect people to come out and collect their own beetles. We supply them with the equipment and teach them how to do it.”

Aside from providing nets, Anderson teaches the collectors how release the beetles.

For example, the beetles prefer being released on the edge of a leafy spurge patch, rather than in the middle of a dense infestation.

This year’s turnout at the collection days demonstrates that more organizations are aware of leafy spurge beetles.

In the past, it was a challenge to get people to collect beetles, Anderson said.

“When I first started in this position, seven years ago, we really had to work to get people out.”

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