OREM — The Utah Department of Agriculture and Food recently announced that from last year to this year they have seen a 95 percent reduction in the number of Japanese beetles caught throughout Orem.

The state's first Japanese beetle infestation was considered an emergency last year, and UDAF officials, along with the cooperation of Orem leaders and residents, began working toward complete eradication of the beetles.

"We caught 98 beetles this year and only 13 of which were females, which is important to stop the breeding cycle," UDAF public information officer Larry Lewis said. "So compared with 2,100 beetles last year, that is a 95 percent reduction. The success is beyond our expectations, but we are also not letting our guard down."

The program is over for this year. The UDAF will continue the program next year, but in an area that is about 20 percent of the original size. Lewis said that they presume there are still some eggs underground that will spring up next summer, but he feels they have been successful in disrupting the cycle.

Lewis also said the department hopes to reduce the number of catches next year by another 95 percent, but until the beetles are eradicated the department will continue to spray the areas.

"It could have been a very serious infestation," Lewis said. "If we didn't get on top of the situation quickly, they could have spread statewide and that would have meant millions of dollars lost as well as damage to lawns, gardens and shrubs."

If the situation was not handled properly, quarantines would have been placed on all agricultural and nursery products that are normally shipped out of the state. Lewis said that because of the help from Orem residents and other agencies involved in the process, it has been a multimillion-dollar savings to the agricultural industries and residents of the state.

"Our message to the citizens is thank you for being as cooperating as you have," Lewis said. "The job is not over, but we are making great progress."

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