Beetle-mania.

Purple loosestrife, a common ground covering, makes for beautiful scenery – but most people don’t realize how invasive it is to bodies of water. It grows so rapidly it can eventually ruin wetland wildlife habitat.

Enter the Galerucella calmartemsis beetle, a biological control agent of the invasive plant species. Waupaca FFA in Wisconsin set out to educate its members and community residents about the benefits of the Galerucella beetle and sought to propagate the beetle throughout Waupaca and Portage counties where purple loosestrife was problematic.

FFA members gathered donations of pools, pails, nets, stakes, soil, duct tape and string to construct containers in which to raise the Galerucella beetles. Sixty-five FFA members researched plant and beetle information and designed brochures entitled “Controlling Purple Loosestrife.” They distributed the brochures to 1,029 lake property owners and residents, helping get the word out in the community.

The task concluded with the FFA members dropping the beetles off in their new homes, which included five locations on the Waupaca Chain of Lakes, four areas of Bear Lake, eight sites on the Tomorrow and Crustal rivers, and three wetland spots within the Waupaca city limits. Results showed that in repeat sites, there was an 84 percent control rate of purple loosestrife, all thanks to a little – and little-known – insect.

The Waupaca FFA chapter was a finalist in the 2010 National Chapter Models of Innovation award program in the area of Community Development.

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