Plants dying after insect infestation seem to recover

Coast in Crisis: Plants dying after insect infestation seem to recover

NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) -Not far from the mouth of the Mississippi River, cattle rancher Earl Armstrong spots a tiny insect feasting on roseau cane.

"We've got some little spots," said Armstrong, as he pulled back leaves of the plant to reveal fingernail-size blemishes on the plant that plays a critical role in holding together parts of Louisiana's coastline.

However, this year, something is different.

Instead of wide swaths of dead and dying cane in West Bay south of Venice, Armstrong sees mostly tall, healthy grasses towering over him.

"I see more and more green roseau than I see roseau that's in trouble," Armstrong said.

In 2016, he was among the first to discover the scale, an invasive species native to Asia.

As plants died along Pass a Loutre, Wildlife and Fisheries biologists said 200 yards of coastline was lost.

Todd Baker, Director of the LDWF Coastal and Nongame Resources staff, cautioned it may be a bit early to celebrating, noting there was a die off of roseau last fall and another this spring.

August is also the peak of the growing season in South Louisiana.

“This is the time when it’s thick, when you get all the rain and it’s warm,” Baker said. “So, if it’s ever going to look good, this is the time of year when it absolutely should.”

However, there is no disputing the plants look better this August than last year, Baker said.

"I don't know where we are. We definitely look better than this time last year."

Some scientists have questioned whether the insect was even to blame for the earlier die-offs of roseau cane, noting many different factors are stressing the river delta.

Baker said this fall will mark a critical time as experts watch how the roseau holds up after the growing season.

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