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Forest Service Releases Weevils to Combat Weeds

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PLEASANT GROVE, Utah (AP) -- Forest managers are hoping a small bug's large appetite for an invasive weed will improve the health of the Uinta National Forest.

The U.S. Forest Service released about 200 hairy weevils into the forest Wednesday so they could eat up yellow starthistle, a highly invasive plant that chokes out the area's natural plants and is poisonous to animals.

The release of the bugs is the first time the agency has used biocontrol agents to tackle weed problems in Uinta National Forest. Typically, chemicals are used to kill other invasive plants.

But yellow starthistle is resistant to chemical sprays, said Marcy DeMillion in the Pleasant Grove Ranger District.

DeMillion said forest workers recently stopped spraying other plants so the bugs would have a chance to eat the yellow starthistle.

The weevils will live until all the yellow starthistle dies.

"You know the starfish story? Where the starfishes come onto the beach, and the little boy throws them back one by one?" says Benjamin Kartchner, a seasonal Forest Service weed sprayer for the Pleasant Grove district. Fighting weeds "is like that. It's like, 'I made a difference with that one.' We do it little by little."

DeMillion relies on volunteers and the help of people like Kartchner to help battle the weeds, but she says anyone who comes to the forest can help keep the weeds from spreading.

The use of off-road vehicles on forest land is prohibited, but people who ignore that rule can spread seed heads from one location to another.

"People need to powerwash their ATVs and vehicles," DeMillion said. "One thing I have seen, with any kind of encroachment, where we've seen weeds that weren't there before, is that the powerwashing of heavy equipment is very important."

Information from: Deseret Morning News

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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