Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The great beetle invasion

It's fall, and for most Texans this means principally and foremost, the beginning of football season.  But while high school males are rejoicing at the end of two-a-days and the beginning of cheerleaders, another species is rejoicing in the change of weather.

The sugarcane beetle, Euetheola humilis, is found throughout the South.  First reported as a pest of sugarcane in Louisiana in 1880, it is considered an occasional pest of field corn, rice and sweet potato. In recent years it appears to be becoming an increasingly important pest in Louisiana and Mississippi.  In Texas I have received increasing reports of this beetle from unusual urban situations.  Schools have reported damage occurring to running tracks.  Businesses have reported damage to caulking in sidewalks and around doors of buildings and, last year, a car dealership reported beetles digging their way into rubber seals on recreational vehicles in a sales lot.

Black piles of sugarcane beetles at high school running track, Paris, TX.  September 13, 2010. 
Photo by Sam Adams, Pogue Construction
This week I received pictures showing the most impressive infestation I have seen or heard of so far.  The new high school running track in Paris, Texas has been inundated with these beetles attracted, apparently to stadium lights.  

Such infestations seem to be sporadic, as these beetles are not abundant in all years; but when they are, they are showing themselves to be a formidable pest.  Like crickets and many other occasional pests, sugarcane beetles are attracted to lights at night.  When sun comes up, the beetles' natural instinct is to get out of the light.  What makes this species different is its persistence, ability and strength to dig through rubbers and caulks and other usually tough building materials.  

Sugarcane beetles lift a rubberized running track off its cement base
via their digging activities. 
As with fall cricket invasions, the best and fastest solution is to turn off the lights.  In the Paris, TX high school last night, lights were turned off with a dramatic decrease in numbers.  But turning off lights is not always practical or possible.  In such cases, reducing the time that lights are left on, switching to less attractive sodium vapor light fixtures, or some combination of the two strategies should be pursued.  Pesticides are not likely to provide much relief, though frequent treatment with a residual insecticide may be somewhat useful in emergency situations like the high school where the track is being destroyed.  Early morning sweeping or vacuuming, before the beetles can cause damage, may also be helpful in some cases.  

The only good news about this situation is that such flights are temporary and will probably decline within a week or two.  Football and track coaches, however, may still not be pleased.


Animal Control said...

Very informative post. Thanks for sharing

Stinger said...

That is a boat load of beetles, great info and thanks.

Anonymous said...

Very interesting article. Note, that is not a full trash can, but rather a light with beetles on the glass lens.