ORANGE'S iconic elm trees are under attack.
Not from chainsaw wielding lunatics, but from xanthogaleruca luteola, otherwise known as the elm leaf beetle.
Discovered in Victoria in 1989, the elm leaf beetle has spread around eastern Australia decimating regional populations of the trees.
Taking advantage of our love for the motor car, the beetles have been able to spread themselves far and wide.
Because it’s a pest that until recently was absent from our elms, the beetle has been happily chewing its way around Orange.
Insect Collection Curator at the Orange Agricultural Institute, Peter Gillespie, said that the beetle was first identified in Orange at this time last year.
“It was recorded in Albury - Wodonga about three years ago and has spread here quite quickly,” he said,
“We’ve been receiving a lot of calls from concerned citizens saying that their elm’s leaves look like they’ve been blasted with a shot gun.”
A bit bigger than a lady-bird, the elm leaf beetle is finding the brand new environment of Orange to its liking.
“They’re entering virgin territory and because there are no predators here yet, the damage they’re causing is significant.”
That damage though, Mr Gillespie said, is mainly visual.
“It does look unsightly but it won’t really kill the trees. It may well be something that we will have to learn to live with,” he said.
Although chemical controlling agents are available, Mr Gillespie says that experience from Victoria shows that nature will eventually find some sort of balance.
“The predators of the Elm leaf beetle will follow the beetles path and also the ones here will adapt to the new food source,” he said.
“In every subsequent year after the initial wave we will begin to see less damage and fewer beetles and their larvae on the trees.”
Because of the experiences that Victoria has had in dealing with the beetle, the best place that Mr Gillespie says for people to go to for information are Victorian based websites.
“The Victorian government has been dealing with the beetle in their gardens for decades and have well researched and effective methods of control for Australian conditions,” Mr Gillespie said.
Treecraft NSW arborist, Hayden Trott, said that many people that he had spoken to are concerned about their trees and the possibility that Orange's streetscape could be irreversibly changed.
"If anyone is concerned about their trees we can give the trees a stem injection of a systemic insecticide or a probe injection into the soil."