Weevil warriors: Tiny insects tackle big problem at Calgary-area park

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WATCH: A tiny creature is making some big improvements at a provincial park just northwest of Calgary. As Gil Tucker shows us, park managers are grateful to have this much-needed help in the war on weeds – Aug 21, 2019

An invasive plant that posed a big problem in a Calgary-area park has been beaten back by a tiny foe: a weevil the size of a tick.

The Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park, about 10 kilometres northwest of Calgary, brought in the root weevil mogulones crucifer to help control the invasive plant Hound’s-tongue.

“Hound’s-tongue comes from eastern Europe and Asia. Here, there’s nothing that eats it,” the park’s vegetation manager Blake Weis said.

“It spreads and gets thicker and it chokes out our native plants.”

READ MORE: Tiny beetles called Serbian weevils help control weeds in Banff National Park

Weis was searching tall grassy areas for Hound’s-tongue with park volunteer Carson Duggan, explaining how the plant had taken over large sections of ravines and valleys.

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“That’s terrible,” Duggan said. “If you have these invasive species that just overpower the rest, then you don’t get the beauty Alberta has to offer.”

The park fought back by bringing in the root weevil.

READ MORE: Goats to continue grazing at Calgary park as part of weed control pilot project

“The adult weevils lay their eggs in the stems of the Hound’s-tongue plant, then the larvae burrow through the plant,” Weis said. “They eat the roots from the inside, which is what kills the Hound’s-tongue.”

Eliminating the invader cleared the way for the return of many native plants, which will be highlighted on Friday, Aug. 23 when the park hosts a special event focusing on First Nations traditions.

“Indigenous people would have used the native plants for just about everything,” Weis said. “Making teas to soothe sore throats, putting bandages over wounds to heal wounds.”

The park’s Indigenous Peoples Day also includes traditional games, music and dance performances.

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Weis said the root weevil, which eats only Hound’s-tongue, has caused no problems in the park’s ecosystem in the decade since it was introduced to the area.

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“The weevils and the Hound’s-tongue form a natural balance,” Weis said.

“I think it’s absolutely fascinating that a tiny little insect [has] really taken care of this entire area,” Duggan said. “It’s pretty incredible!”