Who Let the Bugs Out?
If you’ve been to Keene State’s Owl Stadium Complex on Krif Road in recent weeks, you’ll have noticed a sea of purple flowers blanketing the wetlands area. A lovely color - yes. A lovely plant - not in this setting. The plant, purple loosestrife, an invasive species originally from Asia, has choked many native species out of their habitat. In an attempt to control the plant, a new program was recently launched by Keene State and the United States Department of Agriculture.
Last month, Renate Gebauer, assistant professor of biology (center) and Kate Andreozzi (right), a junior majoring in environmental science, with help from Bob McKenzie of Physical Plant, released thousands of galerucella pusilla, a beetle species that feeds on purple loosestrife. The beetles were bred on campus in a program organized by Wendy Ward of the USDA and KSC Grounds staff.
The goal of the program, says Renate, is to eradicate the purple loosestrife using a natural consumer of the plant (as opposed to using pesticides or other non-environmentally friendly techniques).
This summer, Kate, under the advisement of Renate, began an independent study that will, among other things, investigate the best way to distribute the beetles to have the greatest impact on the purple loosestrife. Don’t expect to see any changes soon though, says Kate. It may take a few years before there are enough beetles to make a dent in the purple loosestrife.
The wetlands are part of KSC’s wildlife preservation area. This land, which makes up the southern part of the campus, comprises about 40 acres of wetlands, river banks, forest, and old farm fields, which are habitat for many species of birds, butterflies, deer, moose, and smaller mammals.
For more information about habitat restoration at KSC, visit www.keene.edu/al umni/kst/2002spfeatures.pdf.