Connecticut Purple Loosestrife Program

Purple Loosestrife
Purple Loosestrife at Mirror Lake

Integrated Pest Management (IPM) methods can be used to control invasive plants in backyards, in parks, and in natural landscapes. IPM technologies include the use of biological, mechanical, cultural, and chemical controls. Biological control, the use of natural enemies to reduce an invasive plant's population below a biological or economic threshold, is a sustainable, low-input method to control a widespread invasive plant, purple loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria).

Galerucella leaf-feeding beetles have been approved for biological control of purple loosestrife, and these beneficial insects have been introduced into Connecticut wetlands since 1996. The beetles feed primarily on purple loosestrife leaves, stems, and flowers but do not prefer other kinds of plants. Feeding injury by the beetles helps to reduce purple loosestrife populations that invade wetland habitats in Connecticut and throughout the US.

The Beetle Farmer Program was initiated in Connecticut in 2004 to enhance educational outreach for biological control and to increase the distribution of the Galerucella beetles in the state. Raising beetles to control purple loosestrife through the Beetle Farmer Program is an exciting opportunity for community involvement for people of all ages, including K-12 teachers and students, conservation groups, Scouts, senior citizens, and families. If you know of a site invaded by purple loosestrife where biological control is desired, or if you would like to raise Galerucella beetles to release at a particular site, become a Beetle Farmer and start this successful program in your community.

To sign up for the Beetle Farmer Program, contact Donna Ellis at the University of Connecticut [phone (860) 486-6448; email donna.ellis@uconn.edu]. The primary vehicles we use for communicating information are the University of Connecticut Beetle Farmer website (www.hort.uconn.edu/ipm) and the Beetle Farmer List Serve (an electronic mailing list). The website contains photos and descriptive information about purple loosestrife and the Galerucella beetles, a PowerPoint presentation with step-by-step instructions on beetle farming, maps showing towns and counties where the beetles have been introduced, a rearing guide for the beetles, newspaper articles, program summaries, and much more. Beetle Farmers receive timely information about the program via the List Serve in an interactive setting.

Since the statewide purple loosestrife program began in 1996, we have introduced more than 1.5 million Galerucella beetles, also known as purple loosestrife biological control agents, into 100+ wetlands in Connecticut where purple loosestrife control is needed.

Biological Control
  • 1996: Biological control began in CT
  • 110+ wetland sites
  • More than 1.5 million biological control agents released
  • Long-term monitoring studies
  • Outreach education
  • Rearing program
  • 725 Beetle Farmers trained
  • Participants include:
    • Landowners, towns, land trusts
    • Teachers and students
    • Scouts and Scout leaders
    • Master Gardeners