Tamarisk Biocontrol: Saltcedar Beetle Project

Saltcedar (Tamarix spp.) is a deciduous shrub or small tree native to the eastern Mediterrranean region and tropical Asia. Introduced to the United States in 1823, saltcedar was once used to stablizie riverbanks and prevent erosion. Today saltcedar is considered a detriment to the native habitat, quick reproduction and a need for large quantities of water put a strain on natural vegetation

flooded site

and wildlife. In 2006, attempts to establish the Tamarisk leaf beetle (Diorhabda spp.) at three locations along the Rio Grande River was conducted in an effort to control the spread of saltcedar and restore the riparian corridor, which has become populated by a monoculture of saltcedar.

In August through October of 2008 many of the sites were flooded and beetle populations negatively affected. Flooding was a result of both unseasonally heavy rainfall and emergency releases of water into the Rio Conchos. The sites downriver from Presidio through Big Bend National Park were the most affected . However, nearly every site saw a reduciton in beetle populations due to standing water. Standing water does not allow for the beetle to complete their life cycle because they pupate on the ground.

Currently, several release sites along the Rio Grande are showing signs of success as beetles have become established and over 100 miles of saltcedar has been defoliated. There have been
several beetle projects running in Texas, each with numerous sites being examined. This stretch of the project focuses on the Forgotten River region north of Candeleria, and south to Big Bend National Park. We focus on monitoring the Diorhabda bettle, as well as the splendid tamarisk weevil and tamarisk scale.


site in June 2010 release site
June 24, 2010 Release Site

Below are several links to privately posted (not USDA) articles about the tamarisk beetle.


We would like to thank the following people for their hard work and dedication:
C. Jack DeLoach, Research Entomologist USDA/ARS Grassland, Soil & Water Research Laoratory-retired 
James L. Tracy, Biological Science Technician (Insects) USDA/ARS Grassland, Soil and Water Research Lab
Allen Knutson, Texas AgriLife Research & Extension Center
Mark Muegge, Texas A&M University Texas Agricultural Extension Service Department of Entomology
 Jerry Michels, Texas AgriLife Research & Extension Center-retired 

This page provided by:

Dr. Christopher M. Ritzi, Sul Ross State University
Chair of Biology Department, Primary Investigator Saltcedar Beetle Project
(432) 837-8112, (432) 837-8682 fax  critzi@sulross.edu