Beetle Wins War Against Galapagos Pest

RIVERSIDE, Calif., April 23 (UPI) — Releasing the ladybug beetle throughout the Galapagos Islands has nearly eliminated a devastating sap-sucking bug native to Australia, U.S. scientists said.

In 2002, when the beetle was released, a pest known as the cottony cushion scale was infesting woody ornamentals and crops on many of the islands, said Mark Hoddle, an entomologist at the University of California, Riverside.

By 2009, the beetle, Rodolia cardinalis, had reduced the scale infestations by more than 99 percent on native plants such as mangroves and had completely eliminated scale infestations on rare native plants such as Darwiniothamnus tenuifolius, Hoddle said in a release Friday.

“We also found no evidence that the ladybug beetle was attacking non-target species,” Hoddle said. “The bug was never seen feeding on other insects in the Galapagos even when the cottony cushion scale and the non-target species were side by side on the same twig.”

The ladybug beetle first was used to fight cottony cushion scale in Southern California in 1888 when the pest invaded the state’s fledging citrus industry.

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