One of the most successful biological control programs of the last decade has been the introduction of leafy spurge flea beetles. The flea beetles are very effective insects that develop within the spurge root system. The adult flea feed on leafy spurge leaves and flowers in the summer; lay their eggs in the soil near the base of the plants, the larvae emerge underground and over-winter there. As the soil temperature increases, the activity of the larvae increases and they begin feeding on the spurge roots, compromising the plant's ability to take up moisture and nutrients. The larvae emerge from the plants in mid June as adults and feed on the foliage of the plants. The significant damage to the plant occurs when the larvae are feeding on roots preventing the production of a seed head, which ultimately kills the plants.
Since the year 2000, the district has distributed 6.9 million leafy spurge beetles to private landowners and WPA's within the district to assist with weed control. We have eliminated spraying and have gone to strictly biological control on our WPA's for leafy spurge control. The program has been a huge success.