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US approves releasing non-native insect to control thistle

Federal officials have approved turning loose a non-native insect to feed on an invasive thistle that sprouts in everything from rangelands to vineyards to wilderness areas, mainly in the U.S. West.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture said Tuesday it will permit the use of the weevil native to Europe and western Asia to control yellow starthistle.

The agency says there is little to no risk of the insect attacking native plants.

The agency says the weevils will initially be released in California, with additional releases in Idaho, Oregon, Washington and possibly Nevada. It’s not clear when releases might begin.

The Agriculture Department says yellow starthistle entered California before 1860 and is one of the state’s worst pests.

Experts say the weevil can reduce its spread.

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