SDSU wants landowners to manage leafy spurge beetles

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SDSU Extension and the South Dakota Department of Agriculture encourage landowners to collect and redistribute leafy spurge beetles in their pastures.

"With the late spring, beetles can reasonably be collected and moved through about July 15th or so," said Pete Bauman, SDSU Extension Range Field Specialist.

Bauman added that it is important to realize the relatively inexpensive benefits of utilizing beetles in your leafy spurge control program.

"By simply taking a few hours every spring to move beetles around to new patches, landowners can keep their beetle populations going indefinitely, ultimately reducing their overall chemical expenses," he said. "There is no advantage to hoarding beetles in one spot, the key to success is redistribution on your own land and sharing with your neighbor."

The following are recommendations to assist landowners in spurge beetle management:

When: Collect bugs only between mid-June and early/mid-July. This is when the adult beetles will be out on leafy spurge plants. Avoid releasing the beetles in the dense center of a leafy spurge patch, rather release them in areas of moderate density toward the edge of the patch.

Weather: The most productive collection days are hot, still days. The beetles will be higher up on leafy spurge plants and easier to collect. When it's cold and/or windy out, beetles stay closer to the ground. However, collections can be very successful on moderately breezy days.

Where: Beetles will be most abundant where you find "dead cane" (dead, brittle leafy spurge stems). You may also notice damage to the leaves of live leafy spurge plants. This is evidence that beetles are present. Sweep in the vicinity of any previous year's release areas as beetles often move away from the original release points.

Technique: Sweep back and forth with a pace slow enough to prevent the beetles from jumping to the ground before they are collected.

Collection should continue until there is a cluster of material the approximate size of a baseball in the net. Shake the beetles to the bottom of the net and grab the net above the beetles to prevent escape. While holding the beetles in the net, turn the net inside out and put your hand and the 'wad' of beetles into the pillow case or laundry bag. Empty the net and close the top of the storage bag or pillow case firmly.


  • Sweep nets (canvas net with no holes)
  • Silk laundry bags or light colored pillow case (to put the beetles in after sweeping)
  • Coolers with BLUE ICE (no freezer ice or ice cubes) and newspaper which prevents beetle containers from getting wet. Use coolers and ice if beetles are not to be released for several hours.

Transporting Beetles:

  • Short distances: If beetles are will be moved only a short distance, they can be placed directly from the nets into a pillow case or large brown paper grocery bag. If the beetles will be moved within one hour, the pillow case/bag can be tied shut and placed in the shade until the beetles are released.
  • Longer distances 1 hour or more: Place two or three blocks of blue ice into a cooler and cover the ice blocks with newspaper, this prevents the beetles from getting wet.

Spread the bug-filled pillow case/bag out on top of the newspaper so that the beetles are not piled on top of each other, and leave until released. Paper bags with seams taped shut can also be used. If storing beetles in the refrigerator remove the blue ice otherwise they will get too cold and die.

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