Intentionally introduced beetles impact songbird habitat

Impacts caused by introduced beetles are leading to wildfires that can damage willow flycatcher habitat. ©Becky Matsubara

Beetles introduced to the United States from Asia have done their job in eating up invasive tamarisks in the Southwest. The problem is, the tamarisk beetles (Diorhabda carinulata) are doing too good of a job, and have traveled from Nevada — where they were introduced — to Arizona, where many willow flycatchers (Empidonax traillii) rely on these trees. Scientists believe the beetles traveled by clothes, backpacks or boats to make it to the Verde River, where they’re now wreaking havoc on the endangered songbirds’ habitat. The beetles eat through the trees and cause the leaves to dry up, which also may prompt more wildfires, impacting the species’ nests. Scientists recommend planting willows and cottonwoods as well as other native species that can provide habitat for the birds.

Read more in The Associated Press.