(Sounds of walking in brush)
“I have many favorite plants, this one’s called partridge pea…”
Katy Emde’s garden sprawls luxuriously in front of her home near Memorial Park. She’s got powderly thalia, prairie plants and native ruelia; baby tadpoles and tall trees. But she’s worried about a foreign pest that she found right next door.
“I had come to this property, which is next to my property, and while we were wandering around, we saw this mobile hanging from the lamp, and on the mobile was a bug, and I said to my friend, I think that’s the weevil that I just read about.”
Emde had read an email about the Citrus Root Weevil. Naturalists had just spotted the first specimen across town, in Bellaire’s Russ Pitman Park. She called the Texas Department of Agriculture, who sent someone out to inspect the property. They are now on the look-out for any other reports of Citrus Root Weevils in Harris County.
“The weevil can have a devastating effect on citrus trees.”
That’s Bryan Black, a spokesman for the Texas Department of Agriculture. Citrus Root Weevils feed on over 270 types of plants, including palms, hibiscus, pecans, cotton, and corn. They’ve attacked citrus plants in Florida, and are also seen in the Rio Grand Valley and California. But never before in Harris County. Austin-based Entomologist Mike Quinn explains what the insect does:
“Larva girdle the tap root and that pretty much does the plant in…”
Which means, that the young bugs chew up the roots, depriving them of water and nutrients. Luckily, they’re pretty easy to spot: they’re nearly an inch long, with black and orange stripes, and jaws at the end of a long dark snout. You can also look for signs in the garden:
“And the adults feed on the edges of leaves, they chew out circular chunks in the leaves, so that kind of feeding on leaves is potential sign of root weevils.”
For right now, TDA officials aren’t sure where the bugs came from, or how even many are here. In any case, they almost certainly came in on an infected plant from another area. Again, here’s Bryan Black:
” But the important part to figure out is, is this just two weevils out there right now, or is this an infestation? As soon as we figure that, which we’ll know soon, then we’ll be able to go forward, and make sure that there’s a solution.”
So the investigation continues-and the TDA asks that Houstonians report any signs of the bug. For right now, Katy Emde is the most concerned:
“I’m being very watchful because if it’s here, the sooner we spot them, the and kill them, the better.”
From the KUHF NewsLab, I’m Melissa Galvez