reduction in leafy spurge due to introduction of flea beetles

Leafy Spurge Flea Beetles

Aphthona nigriscutis and Aphthona lacertosa:

Both of these insects are small flea beetles that feed on the fine roots of leafy spurge as larvae. Adults feed on plant foliage. Flea beetles have achieved excellent control of leafy spurge on many sites, however, they are sensitive to soil type and may not do well on heavy clay or very sandy soils. The two species of flea beetles have slightly different site characteristics that they prefer. By selling them in combination, the species best suited for the site will become dominant.


$125 per release of 1,000 + insects. Available mid-June to early July.

As the old saying goes, “Montana weather is predictably unpredictable”. Since the insect’s development is dependent on the weather, that means that many years the insects are out early and unavailable early too. We always encourage folks to order their insects as early as possible in the year so you don’t miss your chance at the bugs.

Apthona nigriscutis, a brown beetle, 1/16 inch long

Apthona lacertosa, a black beetle, 1/16 inch long










Red Headed Spurge Stem Borer

Oberea erythrocephala:

Adults of this insect girdle the stem as they are laying eggs generally causing shoot death. Larvae feeding in the root and stem reduce the plant's root reserves. This insect generally does not have as significant an impact on leafy spurge as the flea beetles do. However, it may do better on certain soil types and shady riparian areas where the flea beetles may not do well.


$170 per release of 100 insects. Available mid-June to early header spurge stem borer

All the leafy spurge insects we handle are approved for release in the United States by the US Department of Agriculture. They are also host specific, meaning they only feed on spurge, nothing else. There is no danger of them feeding on native plants or crops. Once established on a site, the insects reproduce rapidly and spread to other weed infested areas (Aphthona lacertosa females lay 28 to 130 eggs). One release of insects can grow to over a million in just a few years. They are adapted to cold climates and do not die off in the winter. There is no need to purchase additional insects in following years. Because the insects's only source of food is spurge, as the density of the weed decreases the insect's population also decreases, a classic predator-prey relationship. Eventually the weed and the biocontrol come into equilibrium with each other at a low population in the environment. Since the insects spread to many acres and achieve permanent control of spurge, the cost of control is very low, possibly less than a dollar per acre for a large area. This makes biocontrol a very attractive option compared to the high and recurring cost of chemical control. All of these factors make biocontrol "The Smart Choice" for control of leafy spurge.

Click here to see what the experts have to say in research articles and government publications.

Click here for practical information on the use of biocontrol insects.

Contact us at (406)251-4261 (406)552-5024 if you have any questions.

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