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Wednesday, June 26, 2019

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Roseau cane-killing bug continues to spread

Roseau cane-killing bug continues to spread

The roseau cane-killing bug, found in Terrebonne and Lafourche parishes about a month ago, is continuing to spread and has now made its way to at least 10 parishes in the southern portions of the state.

The roseau cane mealybug, an invasive species from Asia, originally found late last year in Plaquemines Parish, attaches to the root of roseau cane and eventually kills the plant. If the bug continues to spread, the state could permanently lose some of its wetlands, scientists say.

“Roseau cane is very hardy and can persist in standing water that is deeper than most other plants can tolerate,” said Michael Massimi, invasive species coordinator with the Barataria-Terrebonne National Estuary Program. “It is feared that losing stands of roseau will result in permanent loss of wetlands.”

The scale has been spreading so quickly that it is hard for scientists to keep up, Massimi said. Recently the scale was found in various spots in Golden Meadow. Previously, the scale was spotted in northeast and mideastern areas of Lafourche and on Point Farm Road in Pointe-aux-Chenes, said Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries biologist Vaughan McDonald.

The scale has also been spotted in over 15 different locations in Jefferson Parish.

Next week, the LSU AgCenter plans to survey roadsides south of Houma, and the following week, members of LSU AgCenter and BTNEP will survey locations in western Terrebonne.

It is also possible the scale could affect other agriculture crops such as sugar cane and sorghum, scientists say.

Currently, scientists are working to find a solution to the outbreak but have issued warnings to boaters, fishermen and hunters to wash their boats when they get out of the water.

If anyone sees the dying cane, or the scale, Amanda Voisin, coastal zone management administrator for Lafourche Parish government, said to contact scientists with organizations such as BTNEP, LSU AgCenter or the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries with any information.

“Since this effort is relatively new and we need as much help on the ground information as we can get, I would encourage the public to assist in documenting any locations where the scale insect is present,” Voisin said.

-- Staff Writer Garrett Ohlmeyer can be reached at (985) 850-1149 or Follow him on Twitter @GOhlmeyer.