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OREM — An aggressive effort to stomp out the destructive Japanese beetle appears to be a "cautious" success, with this year being the first that no beetles were caught in any traps.
The Utah Department of Agriculture won't claim total success until there have been zero beetles detected for three years.
"It is too early to state that we have eradicated the Japanese beetle in Orem, but with zero beetles detected in the hundreds of traps we set up in the area, we are cautiously optimistic that we have attained success," said state entomologist Clint Burfitt.
The eradication program began in 2006 when 675 beetles were found in a central Orem neighborhood. In 2006, 2,152 beetles were detected. But after aggressive spraying, beetle numbers were reduced significantly. By 2009, only seven beetles were found and in 2010, one beetle was caught in a trap.
The Japanese beetle is particularly destructive because it feeds on more than 300 species of plants and trees, making it capable of inflicting millions of dollars in damage to gardens, lawns and fruit and shade trees. State agricultural officials say a prolonged infestation may have led to a quarantine of nursery products grown and sold in Utah.
"Our current success is a result of widespread citizen cooperation and their recognition of the threat the beetle poses to residential lawns, shrubs, flowers and the state's $100 million greenhouse and nursery industry," said Robert Hougaard, the department's Plant Industry Division director.
The UDAF will continue monitoring for beetles statewide through next year and beyond. More information about the Japanese beetle is available at www.ag.utah.gov.