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VALLEY ROUNDUP | Valley Village

Officials Hope Ladybugs Will Control Foreign Pest

May 25, 1999|MARTHA WILLMAN

More than 2 million ladybug beetles will be released late today into more than 70 eucalyptus trees at Valley Village Park in a pilot program to attack an infestation of Australian insects plaguing the trees.

The insects, redgum lerp psyllids, were discovered last year in El Monte. Infestations have since invaded eucalyptus groves throughout much of California, said Ray Gill, biosystematic entomologist with the California Department of Food and Agriculture.

Because the bugs were not previously found in the United States, officials said they do not know an effective method of control.

However, parks officials said they have found ladybugs feeding on the pests and are hoping that by increasing the number of predatory beetles, they can control the foreign invasion.

"There are ladybugs in the park and they are feeding on these psyllids," said Kevin W. Regan, principal grounds maintenance supervisor for the Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks. "Whether the release of an additional 2 million ladybugs will completely solve the problem, we can't say until we let nature take its course."

Three trucks with aerial lifts and a crew of tree trimmers will place ladybugs by the handfuls into park trees, beginning about 5 p.m. The project is expected to be completed within three hours, Regan said.

If the pilot program is successful, it may be repeated in other parks with similar infestations, he said.

Meantime, city officials said they are receiving dozens of calls from residents seeking more information on the pests. Ladybugs can be purchased from most nurseries and home-improvement stores, usually in cups containing about 1,500 of the beneficial insects for about $7 each, said Paula White of Organic Control, Inc. in Los Angeles, which supplies the predators.

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