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Salt cedar beetles exceeding expectations

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A program to rid the area of trees drying up our land has made a huge impact this year. Salt cedar beetles that were released by Texas AgriLIFE researchers in 2010 have made a large impact this year alone on salt cedar trees. Those non-native trees have been sucking up water and killing off other vegetation in the panhandle.

"It could take two to three years to kill this tree, but it will eventually do that," Jerry Michels, PhD., Texas A&M AgriLIFE Research said.

Larva from the salt cedar beetle cover this tree. They've already created a noticeable amount of damage to it. If you look out across the river bed of Lake Meredith you'll see lots of brown patches where they've done their job.

"This year they've exploded all over the old lake bed. Almost every place that you look that you have salt cedar you can find the beetles now, and they're causing just a huge amount of defoliation to the trees," Michels said.

And it's not just Lake Meredith seeing those results. Just last summer this area of the Canadian River was all green with salt cedar. As you can see now, it's all brown.

"We had did a similar flight last summer and all of that salt cedar was green, and now it's 75 percent brown or reddish orange," Michels said.

Michels was not expecting such great results, especially with the late freezes this year.

"If they keep going the way they're going right now, I'd say within four to five years salt cedar is going to be relatively rare," Michels said.

He says the beetles however won't completely eradicate the trees. There will still be a few salt cedars and beetles to go along with them.

"So it will become more of the natural ecosystem that was here before salt cedar came in," Michels said.

The beetles are specific to salt cedar trees only. They won't move on to anything else once the salt cedars have diminished.

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