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Tamarisk Leaf Beetle

Tamarisk leaf beetles established at Wash

Two adult tamarisk leaf beetles were collected during the June 2012 sampling for the "Tamarisk-Feeding Invertebrates Survey," marking the first occurrence of this species along the Wash. In 2013, the first beetle larvae was identified near the Duck Creek area. This year, they are being found along the entire length of the Las Vegas Wash, with tamarisk already showing heavy signs of distress as the larvae defoliate their leaves.

Tamarisk leaf beetle

The tamarisk leaf beetle was introduced in Utah and Colorado several years ago to control the invasive tamarisk tree (Tamarix), and is quickly spreading throughout the western United States. However, biologists are concerned that the defoliated tamarisk left behind by the beetles will negatively impact wildlife, including the endangered southwestern willow flycatcher.

The purpose of the invertebrate study is to gain a clearer understanding of water quality conditions along the Wash. Insects play a pivotal role in how ecosystems function - they are plant pollinators, filterers of contaminants and nutrients, recyclers of dead or dying plant material, decomposers of plant and animal waste and predators of other insects. They also provide a food source to hundreds of higher trophic species. In other words, invertebrates provide clues to the overall ecological condition of the Wash.

In 2011, Environmental Biologist Jason Eckberg reported on an invertebrate survey along the Wash that resulted in the first known collection in Nevada of the non-native splendid tamarisk weevil (Coniatus splendidulus), a natural predator of the tamarisk tree. So far, more than 375 invertebrate species have been identified along the Wash.

The "Las Vegas Wash Invertebrate Inventory, 2000-2011" report shares knowledge of insects that may have a negative impact on other ecological components of the Wash. View a copy of the full report, along with other interesting documents, in our Document Library.

Las Vegas Wash Project Coordination Team • 100 City Parkway, Suite 700 • Las Vegas, NV 89106 • (702) 822-3300