Are you one of the more than 23 million Americans with a ragweed pollen allergy? The Ophraella communa beetle may be able to help.
Ragweed Eating Beetle
The Ophraella communa is a type of beetle native to North America. Introduced to Europe around 2013, the beetle eats ragweed’s leaves and flowers, drastically reducing the amount of pollen each plant can create. This can help reduce those suffering from hay fever.
A Beetle Study
Heinz Müller-Schärer, a professor in the department of biology at the University of Fribourg in Switzerland, is the author of the new research published in the journal Nature Communications.
Müller and his team estimated that the beetle can reduce ragweed-related allergy symptoms by 2.3 million and the associated medical cost of $1.2 billion per year. The study found that the beetle reduces ragweed pollen production by 82 percent.
“A few beetles can defoliate a large Ambrosia plant in two to three days completely, then they regrow but are eaten up again. Ophraella is a feeding machine 24 hours a day,” Müller-Schärer said.
Replicating the Results
While successful at helping allergy suffers in northern Italy, not all places are as lucky. Cooler climates will only produce one generation of the beetle a year, compared to the four generations that can be created per year in Italy. Balkan countries like Croatia with similar climates can see the most benefit from introducing the beetle to control ragweed.
Because the beetle’s native home is in North America, it is less effective at reducing pollen here. This is because it has more predators than in other parts of the world. Co-author of the research and head of Ecosystems Management at a not-for-profit scientific research organization Urs Schaffner explains, “It is more difficult to build up high enough insect densities to control a weed in the native range.”
China mass produces the bug and distributes it throughout the country to help control the spread of ragweed.
While there is still research to be done on the benefit of introducing a beetle to combat seasonal allergies, you do not need to wait for government agencies to get relief.
Contact the experts at Texas Ent & Allergy to learn about their allergy treatment options or to schedule an appointment.