Attack of the beetles! Portland neighborhood besieged after state agency releases bugs

PORTLAND -- The state of Oregon released thousands of beetles into a wildlife refuge to fight an invasive weed, but the insects have moved into a southeast Portland neighborhood to find a new food source, KPTV reported Tuesday.

Thousands of small beetles started showing up in the Sellwood neighborhood Friday night, flying through the air, chewing up rose bushes and crape myrtle, the news station said.

“As you ride through them, they get in your ears, your arms,” bicyclist Larry Watland told KPTV. “I mean, they’re just all over you. It’s crazy, I’ve never seen this here.”

Kris Heiberg described finding so many beetles on her doors and windows, she doesn’t want to leave the house.

The Oregon Department of Agriculture, which had released the beetles into the Oaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge, called the migration unprecedented.

According to KPTV, the Galerucella leaf beetle is supposed to only feed on purple loofestrife, an invasive weed that crowds native plants. It has been used as a biocontrol instead of herbicide in Oregon since 1992 and was successfully introduced in Oaks Bottom in 2013.

The ODA blamed what’s happening in Sellwood on a “perfect storm” of factors, including hotter and drier weather conditions and favorable water conditions that created a long growing season for the beetles.

The beetles are expected to die off in the next few days and they do not anticipate this happening next summer, the ODA told KPTV.