Important questions and answered about S.tsugae beetles

Beetle Facts:

Part of our mission is to help our clients understand HWA and S.tsugae beetles. We believe the more you know, the better chance we all have of saving our majestic Hemlock Forests. This involves answering questions and addressing common concerns about the S.tsugae beetle.

Q#1: Is there any chance the beetles, being non-native, could cause other environmental problems?

No. S.tsugae beetles have been tried and tested in the Eastern US for well over a decade now. We’ve worked closely with the US Forestry Service since 2001 and have documentation that the beetle poses no threat to anything other living organism than the HWA. They have 2 purposes -to eat HWA and reproduce. Research has never discovered any negative environmental impacts as a result of S.tsugae beetles.

Q#2: Once the beetles eat all of the HWA, won’t they just die?

No. Though the Beetle’s main food source is HWA, it will eat 2 other introduced adelgids: the Pine Bark Adelgid and Balsam Woolly Adelgid. Second, The life cycle of the S.tsugae beetle is synchronized with HWA. The more HWA, the more S.tsugae beetle larvae will be produced. The less HWA, the less larvae will be produced. Third, when Beetles do migrate to another HWA infested tree, they leave behind a successor generation. The tree is not abandoned.

Q#3: Won’t the S.tsugae beetles just fly away?

Yes – in search of more HWA and the next infested tree. However, like any organism, they aren’t going to set out in search of food before consuming that which is readily available. And when they do migrate to another tree – they leave behind a successor generation that continues to consume HWA.

Q#4: Won’t the birds just eat the Beetles?

In reality, all insects are candidates for bird food. However, birds specialize in feeding on what’s most energy efficient to them.  A bird is not going to go out of its way to eradicate an introduced species that is merely the size of a sesame seed.  Will some get eaten by birds?  Sure.  Will it significantly affect the population of S.tsugae beetles?  No.

Q#5: Will the Beetles help fend off other pests?

By consuming the HWA, the Hemlock regains its strength. The nutrients the HWA was feeding on, are now available for the tree. As the tree gets stronger, it regains its natural defense mechanisms to fight off other threats/pests. As the Beetle controls HWA, the tree becomes more capable of taking care of itself.

Q#6: Don’t you need a forest to release the Beetles? Will they work on just one or two trees?

Whether it’s one tree or an entire forest, S.tsugae beetles will attack and consume HWA. Because they’re a migratory predator, they go where the HWA is.

Q#7: How do we determine how many beetles we would need?

It depends on how many trees you want to save and how effective you want to be.The most effective way to release is to order in Bulk and to divide each shipment of 500 up into 4 quadrants (*we ship them that way for easy handling). Each quadrant should not be expected to cover more than 3 trees in close proximity. The beetles “will” move and “will” continue to reproduce, but they are wild and like anything in nature, we cannot give them orders. They will consume the food most readily available first and then move. So keeping the release colony centralized between a few trees is most likely to ensure the recovery of those particular trees.

Q#8: If we get the minimum number of 500, will they just reproduce indefinitely as long as there are Adelgids for them to feed on? Or is there some reason why we would need more?

Yes, the beetles will reproduce indefinitely provided there are HWA to feed on. As an example: in the lab, we create jars for reproduction and the beetle ratio is 10 female and 5 male. Each jar of 15 beetles yields 600 S.tsugae beetle eggs on average per week in peak season. In the wild, beetles have 2 full generations per year (meaning the offspring will have offspring which mature and reproduce). They also live up to 2 years in the wild. This is a rare insect in that it survives the winter to breed again.

As for needing more, it helps to supplement affected areas with a small order every year or every other year – especially large properties with numerous trees. Trees that seem fine this year, may need treatment the following year. Some trees that you treat should recover beautifully and then the beetles will do their job and move. So really its only necessary to release year after year to control the spread and to maintain surveillance of your property.

Q#9: How do we release and spread them, if we want to do it ourselves?

Releasing is VERY easy. Once you identify the trees you most want to save, you make sure there is a good population of HWA egg sacs/wool. You tie the quadrant of branches (with beetles) directly onto the affected area or as close to it as possible. You need a spot that’s stable, near the food, and safe from severe weather. After that, just tie a knot and move to the next one. You don’t want to disturb the material we send you. That comes straight from the rearing cage and therefore contains many uncounted S.tsugae beetle eggs, larvae and pupae that you get for free. Larvae eat even more HWA than adults, so you definitely want them preserved.

Q#10: Do a certain percentage of the beetles tend to arrive dead or die soon after arrival?

No. We ship over-night air mail only and we package very carefully with natural materials and food. S.tsugae beetles can survive about a week with no food (HWA) though we do NOT recommend this. They are very hardy but it’s best to get them onto the trees quickly. If it helps, imagine lady bugs. The St. Beetle is a relative and they are so small (roughly the size of a sesame seed or smaller) that they can tuck into the rearing material/ hemlock branches and virtually disappear. We’ve never had a customer tell us they had dead beetles in their order and we’ve been rearing and mailing S.tsugae beetles since 2008.

Q#11: How much does shipping cost? Is there tax?

There is no tax on an environmental “service.” It’s a service to save hemlock trees. The cost of shipping depends on your location. We’ve had shipping costs range anywhere from $85 to $145. The cost of shipping is due to Next-day air but can be made more affordable if you order a higher quantity. We will ship as many beetles as possible in one package to reduce the cost.

Q#12: When do we pay? When do we receive them?

Beetle rearing is an extensive process. We limit how many we produce based on customer orders. Otherwise, we run out of space and food for them. Therefore we require a 50% deposit up front to ensure only serious buyers. And that deposit needs to be made between now and the end of January for April release. We operate on a first come-first serve basis. So with that in mind, best to get your order in as soon as possible.

On our RESOURCES page, you’ll find answers to more questions, important websites, downloadable pdfs, and a bibliography of peer reviewed studies. [CLICK HERE]

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