The Colorado Department of Agriculture recently hosted a tour along Fountain Creek near Pueblo to highlight a program on the Arkansas River and its tributaries that focuses on conservation through biological pest control.
The Palisade Insectary is among a handful of programs across the U.S. that provide farmers, ranchers and resource managers with dozens of species of beneficial insects and mites as tools for use in Integrated Pest Management programs.
For the past 7 years, the Insectary has focused on collecting and releasing the tamarisk leaf beetle, Diorhabda carinulata, which has been effective at defoliating and eventually killing tamarisk on Colorado waterways.
During the Fountain Creek tour, attendees saw firsthand how the beetle has helped a landowner manage a serious infestation of tamarisk.
Approximately 1 million bugs have been released on the Arkansas River and tributaries, including Fountain Creek.
In the past few years, the small yellow-and-black-striped beetle has helped defoliate tamarisk along at least 300 miles of river in western Colorado and left native vegetation, such as willows and cottonwoods, untouched and thriving.
A similar success story is just beginning on the Arkansas River and its tributaries.
Colorado has about 92,000 acres of tamarisk-infested lands, and of those nearly 70,000 acres are found on the Arkansas River and tributaries.
The infestation depletes water resources, alters stream channels, decreases wildlife habitat value, competes with native plants, decreases recreational opportunities and increases fire hazard.
The Arkansas River has more tamarisk than any other river in Colorado, and major control efforts are under way with the cooperation of multiple agencies and landowners.
Tamarisk was introduced into the U.S. from Europe and Asia nearly 200 years ago and has since spread through the waterways of the West. At first it was considered useful since it was fast growing and required little attention, but it has become a problem as it forms dense thickets and crowds out native vegetation.