It ain’t pretty, it just looks that way

About 50 local children from 4-H and the Junior Conservationists took part in a cull of purple loosestrife organized by the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters (OFAH) outdoors club (Fort Frances) south of Devlin last Thursday evening.
“We want to make people aware how bad they are,” said local OFAH president Henry Miller. “We’re going to take the flower heads off so it won’t re-seed, to stop it from spreading so badly.”
Loosestrife is a European plant found in gardens, which spreads out and chokes out indigenous plants. The plant has no natural enemies here and therefore it’s nearly impossible to “get rid of completely,” he added.
One multiple-stemmed flower contains millions of seeds which threaten wetland plants and wildlife. Miller said he’s read there are up to 2.7 million seeds on one plant.
The municipality of La Vallee bought 5,000 galerucella beetles for $1,000.
“We paid for them, and the MNR [Ministry of Natural Resources] looked after them to get them here,” said La Vallee councillor Tom Morrish, adding the beetles have done some damage to the loosestrife so far.
The small beetles’ weighty appetites have always kept the loosestrife in check. Though an exotic species themselves, their use as a biological weapon against purple loosestrife has proven an interminable force, with a success rate of up to 90 percent in other areas of North America without visible environmental repercussions.
The OFAH is going to continue to study the beetles for several years.
“We put adults in to eat all summer,” Miller said. “They start laying eggs in spring. We’ll count egg masses.”
The volunteers cut off the heads of the purple loosestrife and put them in plastic bags as part of “Project Purple Week.” The plant was then placed in a gunny sack and weighed.
The OFAH will have a purple loosestrife display this Saturday at the Clover Valley Farmers’ Market. The OFAH senior’s fish fry at Sunny Cove will take place on Sept. 2.

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