Flies are Vail’s new weedbusters | VailDaily.com

Flies are Vail’s new weedbusters

Preston Utley/Vail DailyOne hundred tiny gall flies have been released in Vail to prevent the spread of the Canada thistle weed.

VAIL ” Forget goats ” Vail is using tiny bugs to fight its weeds this year.

Earlier this month, workers released 100 tiny urophora cardui, otherwise known as gall flies, on a patch of Canada thistle.

“They are not as cute as goats,” said Mark Stricklan, who works at the state insectary in Palisade where Vail got the insects.

But they are often effective, Stricklan said.

The flies are supposed to prevent the spread of the Canada thistle, a common weed in Vail.

“They suck the juice out of the plant,” said Gregg Barrie, who directs Vail’s weed-control program.

They lay eggs on the weed, the eggs burrow into the stem and then bulge up inside the plant.

“It reduces the vigor of the plant and makes it so few things above that plant are thriving,” Stricklan said. “It’s fairly successful, but it’s not like a nuclear bomb on weeds.”

Vail released them May 18 near Red Sandstone Elementary School in Vail.

There is no chance the flies will overtake the town ” they have been tested for “host specificity,” meaning they only eat Canada thistle, Stricklan said.

State workers breed the flies at the insectary in Palisade, where Stricklan said he was surrounded by hundreds of thousands of bugs.

And Vail may use other kinds of bugs to attack weeds.

There are a weevil and a moth that do a number on yellow and Dalmatian toadflax, and another type of weevil targets musk thistle, Sticklan said.

And for those with entomophobia ” fear of bugs ” rest assured that these bugs probably won’t bite you.

“Just about any insect, if you piss them off, they can (bite),” Stricklan said. “But there’s nothing to stay away from.”

The flies are just a portion of Vail’s overall weed-control program, Barrie said.

“This is part of our integrated weed-management program using different methods to go after the noxious weeds other than chemicals,” he said.

Goat-lovers, don’t despair ” the fuzzy ungulates may return.

“We’re hoping to bring the goats back,” Barrie said.

Staff Writer Edward Stoner can be reached at 748-2929 or estoner@vaildaily.com.

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