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A tiny soldier goes to battle against plants threatening Texas lakes

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SMITH COUNTY, TX (KLTV) -

The bugs are working for us. For the past several years, Texas Parks and Wildlife has been waging war on an invasive species with bugs.

Giant Salvinia grows so fast that it could cover a lake if left unchecked. It can be poisoned but other plants can be harmed in the process. Many battles against Salvinia have been won using a little soldier called a Salvinia Weevil.

Salvinia came from South America, and it can destroy a lake almost before you know there's a problem. It's not mobile by itself, but if it's unknowingly transported and stays wet, it can spread when it hits water again. Dr. Richard Ott, a Texas Parks and Wildlife biologist, knows all about the Giant Salvinia invasion.

"After you've got a thousand acres of it out there for example, five days later you've got two thousand acres," Ott said.

He explained how Salvinia's floating bio mass can double every five days. Texas Parks and Wildlife recently drafted a little soldier called a Salvinia Weevil to fight the good fight for Texas lakes. Ott says the weevils are quite the troopers but they are picky eaters.

"All that it consumes is Giant Salvinia and the common Salvinia. What it actually eats is the little growing tip at the very center of that Salvinia plant bundle. Without that growing tip the plant can't continue to grow," Dr. Ott revealed.

That helps to control the plant, but what about the weevil invasion?

"Once the Salvinia's gone, the weevils die," Ott stated.

No food; no soldiers. That can be a problem for recruiters, who must raise their own plants.

"You've got the Giant Salvinia growing in tanks in a greenhouse situation. You're trying to raise the weevils on that Giant Salvinia, insuring that none of that Giant Salvinia escapes and goes somewhere else," Ott pointed out.

Unchecked, it will cover a lake, and the dead Salvinia sinks. It stops oxygenation and light, so it kills everything in the lake. The lake would fill, becoming a swamp and eventually pretty much just dry ground.

Those little bugs never knew they'd have the important job of stopping an invasion at places like Caddo Lake. The weevils are just one of many tools Texas Parks and Wildlife and other outdoor agencies use to knock down the expanding Salvinia problem.

They ask boaters to check their boat trailers carefully to make sure they aren't unknowingly harboring the enemy.

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