- Associated Press - Wednesday, June 28, 2017

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) - North Dakota’s Agriculture Department is increasing the number of Japanese beetle traps around the state by 50 percent to try to stem the spread of the destructive bug.

Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring said Wednesday that 1,000 traps were already in place, and the agency is adding about 500 more in areas at high risk of infestation, including nurseries, parks and golf courses.

The move comes after Japanese beetle larvae and pupae were found in containers of plants shipped from a Minnesota nursery to nurseries around North Dakota. Goehring is urging any state residents who bought nursery stock this year to check it for the half-inch-long beetles that are metallic green with bronze wing covers.

“We believe this pest isn’t widely established yet in North Dakota, and we don’t want it to become widespread,” Goehring said.

The beetle has been found in North Dakota before, but officials believe it’s now establishing a population in the state, at least in larger cities. It attacks more than 300 ornamental plants and grasses, fruits and vegetables, trees and agricultural crops including corn and soybeans. It causes an estimated $450 million in damage in the U.S. each year, according to Janet Knodel, entomologist with the North Dakota State University Extension Service.

Once the bug establishes itself in a state, it takes several years for it to become prevalent enough to cause major economic damage, but any impact is undesirable, Knodel said.

“No one likes a rose with a bunch of holes in it,” she said.

The beetle is more widely established in Minnesota, though its abundance fluctuates from year to year depending largely on moisture, according to Jeff Hahn, a University of Minnesota Extension entomologist.

“Right now we have had normal rainfalls the last several years and (they) have been at higher numbers,” he said.

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This story has been corrected to show that the increase is 50 percent, not one-third.

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Online:

Japanese beetles: https://bit.ly/2siDFQf

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Follow Blake Nicholson on Twitter at https://twitter.com/NicholsonBlake

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