Crops, vineyards, orchards, lawns, and gardens in Mesa County are being threatened, and local officials are not taking it lightly.

The Mesa County Board of Commissioners has declared the Japanese Beetle a "public nuisance" and is calling for "emergency action" to quarantine, control, and eradicate the invasive pest. The insect, which is known to be one of the most damaging pests in the country, has been discovered breeding in the Appleton area of Mesa County.

What Kind of Damage Can the Beetle Do?

These small bugs can severely damage local farms and landscaped properties. The beetle feeds on over 300 species of plants including grapes, plums, peaches, sweet corn, trees, turf grass, and ornamental plants. Nationally, the destructive insect causes $460 million in damages every year.

Mesa County GIS/IT Department
Mesa County GIS/IT Department

What Is the Threat to the Local Economy?

Local homeowners could see significant damage in their yards, landscapes, and gardens from the work of the Japanese Beetle, but, it's even more serious than that. Mesa County peaches bring approximately $14 million to the local economy. Wineries and vineyards bring in about $40 million, and Palisade Fruit and Wine-associated tourism generates about $22 million. The presence of the beetle in Mesa County poses a serious threat to the local economy.

At this week's county commissioners meeting, CSU Extension Entomologist Melissa Schreiner said she has seen the devastation of the Japanese Beetle and said "if it's left to fester and become established, it is likely to move into our agricultural sector here in Mesa County."

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It's Happened Before In Mesa County

Schreiner told commissioners the Grand Valley is one of the only areas having the data to support that "we have actually successfully eradicated this beetle before in Palisade." She said there was a lot of effort, time, and money spent to get it done and "we can consider ourselves lucky over the last several years, we have not had to deal with this."

What Is Being Done About the Japanese Beetle Threat?

Mesa County Commissioner Bobbie Daniel says they are listening to farmers and invasive species experts to jump in and act as quickly as possible. Residents in the currently infested area can be expected to be contacted in March by representatives requesting consent to complete lawn treatments for Japanese Beetle grubs. They will be offering advice and assistance as part of the eradication plan.

The county says if just a few people allow this beetle to multiply in their lawns, it will keep spreading. "We must each do our part to eradicate it as soon as possible, or it will continue to spread and become unmanageable."

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