WHITE BEAR TOWNSHIP-- Rice Lake is home to a purple loosestrife population that has been on the rise during the last decade. Purple loosestrife is an invasive wetland plant species native to Europe, Asia, Africa, and Australia. The plant can be very effective at crowding out natives and even robust wetland species like cattails. The result on Rice Lake has been an explosion of growth that has reached every corner of the Lake. Purple loosestrife typically blooms in August and September, producing a vast sea of light purple/pink that can dominate the landscape. Residents around Rice Lake had noticed the increasing invasive population in the last few years and decided something must be done to help restore biodiversity.
The Rice Lake Project Committee, a subcommittee of the White Bear Preserve Condominium Association, proposed a purple loosestrife reduction project to VLAWMO, and then followed the application process for a Community Blue Grant from the Watershed. VLAWMO's Technical Commission and Board of Directors approved a project plan that would target purple loosestrife reduction by releasing a species of beetle that feeds nearly exclusively on the plant. Intensive testing was conducted in the 1980s in Europe to study which insects that feed on purple loosestrife and do not prey on native species would be most effective for controlling the species in the United States. Two species of beetles and two species of weevils were granted approval for use by the US Federal Government in the early 1990's. In the last 25 years since their release and use as a biological control, the beetles and weevils have proven an effective method for decreasing purple loosestrife populations and restoring biodiversity to wetlands.
This year at the beginning of May, there were two catch and release days where the beetles were collected from wetlands within VLAWMO and transported and released onto Rice Lake. A consultant was chosen to design and lead catch and release efforts, as well as yearly monitoring efforts. The Project goal is not complete purple loosestrife removal, but the establishment of a beetle population that will reduce and control the invasive species.