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Author: Jennifer Forman Orth

Invading your brain since 2002.

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Tuesday, August 19, 2003

Weed Haters Gone Wild!!!!

Registration is now open for the 7th EMAPi conference, to be held in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, November 3-8. Actually, the full title of this event is quite a mouthful: "Invasive Plants in Natural and Managed Systems: Linking Science and Management and International Conference on the Ecology and Management of Alien Plant Invasions." Register by September 15th to get the early-bird discount ($190). Students can get their registration fee refunded by volunteering their time, details are here. The preliminary program looks very interesting (though is anyone taking bets on whether or not Gale Norton will show up?).

Monday, August 18, 2003

Mosquitos Bite

With all the press about the Asian tiger mosquito (Aedes albopictus) being found in the U.S., little attention has been given to its distant cousin, the Asian bush mosquito (Ochlerotatus japonicus). Turns out O. japonicus has been in the U.S. since at least 1999, the year it was first found in the southeast. Now, as reported at, the mosquito has been found as far north as North Carolina. While much more likely to carry West Nile virus, this species is a much less aggressive biter.

Thanks to Dave Barry's blog for posting a link to this story.

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Saturday, August 16, 2003

Buyers Beware

This article from the Bonita Daily News describes the problems Florida has trying to deal with the purchase and sale of invasive plants over the internet. Internet sales, especially via auction sites, can be tricky, since a species can usually be sold in some states while completely banned in others. The example given in the article is water hyacinth (Eichhornia crassipes), a popular aquatic species which is illegal to possess in Florida. There will always be some sellers that are more cautious than others, but I have to wonder, how many states would a species have to be banned in before someone says "Hmm, maybe I shouldn't be selling this at all anymore"?

Friday, August 15, 2003

Cape Town Crusaders

If you're in the area of Cape Town next week, you'll want to stop by the Inaugural Research Symposium of the Working for Water Program. As reported by BuaNews, researchers from several African countries will meet to discuss various aspects of dealing with invasive species. You can learn more about Working for Water (the organization behind the infamous Weedbuster comics) by clicking here.

Wednesday, August 13, 2003

"Tree from Hell"

Scientists think they have found a tool to help stave off the invasion of the annoying and malodorous tree of heaven (Ailanthus altissima), according to this article on A fusarium fungus (Fusarium oxysporum) was observed killing the trees in Virginia, and is now being studied to determine how humans can get it to infect any individual tree. Though researchers have had little luck so far, there are high hopes that the fusarium fungus will be the answer to controlling the "tree from hell," a major component of urban and other disturbed habitats in the U.S., known for its ability to damage pipework and building foundations with its rapidly expanding root system.

Thanks to a member of the ALIENS-L listserver for posting a link to this story.

Tuesday, August 12, 2003

Polly want a gunshot wound?

From a single pair of mitered conures (Aratinga mitrata) released on the Hawaiian island of Maui in the 1980s has come 200 offspring threatening crops and forest land. Now, according to this article from News 8 NBC Hawaii, officials are looking into a surveying and control plan, with the intent of removing the parrots from the area. They say they are considering shooting them or netting them, but it's not clear what they would do with 200 netted parrots besides euthanize them. Those interested in this topic may also want to check out the home page of the Maui Invasive Species Committee.

Sunday, August 10, 2003

Survey Says:

There's a team of researchers surveying marine habitats across the Northeastern U.S., and they don't like what they're seeing. According to this article from the Boston Globe, they're not only finding many non-native marine organisms, but they're finding ones new to the area since the last Northeast Rapid Assessment Survey was done just a few years ago. You can find out more about invasive marine species, and see maps from the last Rapid Assessment Survey, by clicking here.

Thursday, August 07, 2003

Gee, maybe we should cultivate this

On a walk today in a fairly natural area, I came across this oddity in a large patch of Asiatic bittersweet (Celastrus orbiculatus):

Variegated Celastrus

close-up of variegated Celastrus leaf

Just a single variegated stem, the only one in the patch, or any other patch at the site. I'm not saying where it was - I've had enough requests for Japanese knotweed cultivars to know better.

Wednesday, August 06, 2003

A Thousand (plus) Points of Blight

The Alien Plant Working Group recently updated their list of Alien Plant Invaders of Natural Areas. There are now over 1000 species on the list. If you check out the site, you'll notice that while there several species have fact sheets, there are many many more looking for volunteers to write them. So if you know a species on the list, step up! :-)

Tuesday, August 05, 2003

Skeeter Scare

The Health Protection Agency in the UK is on high alert after finding evidence that the Asian tiger mosquito (Aedes albopictus) has already entered the country, as reported on the BBC's website.. The mosquitos can carry dengue fever and West Nile virus, among other ailments, making officials extra vigilant about preventing the spread of this insect species. You can read more on the British mosquito invasion in this article from Femail.

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Monday, August 04, 2003

Soylent Rust

Soybean farmers in the U.S. are warily eyeing reports of soybean rust (Phakopsora pachyrhizi) from South America, according to this report from the Iowa Farm Bureau. The disease, caused by a fungus, has decimated crops in Brazil, and is expected to arrive in the continental U.S. within the next seven years. Soybean rust is expensive to control, and is enough of a threat to have attracted the attention of the USDA, the United Soybean Board, and the Department of Homeland Security, which has granted $1 million to study this "potential terrorism threat."


Sunday, August 03, 2003

"It was nice to see them dead."

Biologists in Minnesota are at a loss to explain why zebra mussels (Dreissena polymorpha) are dying off in a portion of the Upper Mississippi River known as "Pool 8." As reported in this article from Wisconsin's LaCrosse Tribune, divers found piles of empty zebra mussel shells when doing a check of native mussel beds. There are now portions of the Upper Mississippi that have virtually no adults left, and populations have yet to rebound. While parasitic infection and low food supply are potential explanations, neither would be expected to cause such a significant and rapid population decrease.

Friday, August 01, 2003

Boring Ahead

Illinois is on the lookout for the emerald ash borer (Agrilus planipennis), according to this article in the Daily Herald. While government researchers and officials are hoping the invasive, wood-boring beetle never arrives in that state, they are proactively preparing for the possibility by meeting this past week to set up a rapid response plan. You can read previously blog entries about the ash borer's appearance in Michigan by clicking here.

Thursday, July 31, 2003

"Bees Aggressive, Bees Bees Aggressive!"

At the end of this interesting article about bumblebees from the Japan Times, there is a brief discussion of the fact that European bumblebees (Bombus terrestris) were introduced to Japan in the early 1990s for the pollination of tomato plants. They escaped in the mid 1990s, and since then the aggressive insects have been suspected of outcompeting native species for food and shelter. They can also hybridize with the native B. hypocrita. Japanese companies are now apparently trying to breed native bumblebee species for commercial use.

Wednesday, July 30, 2003

Pike's Peak

Seems like state officials in California are having no luck in their efforts to rid Lake Davis of the northern pike (Esox lucius) and prevent the fish from being introduced to the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta. As reported by the San Francisco Chronicle, plans now being considered include the option of draining the entire lake down to small pools and poisoning those pools. Since the year 2000, the California Department of Fish and Game has killed over 30,000 pike, 5200 just in this month alone. You can read previous blog entries about the Lake Davis pike problem here and here.

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Tuesday, July 29, 2003

Colorado couldn't care less...about Tamarisk

This Saturday is the fifth annual Colorado Cares day. According to this article from the Rocky Mountain News, the goal for this year is to rid the state of the invasive water-hungry tree known as tamarisk (Tamarix spp.). Even the governor of Colorado has pledged to join in on the weed pulling, and if you're in Colorado the article provides contact information, so you too can get involved.


Monday, July 28, 2003

Excuse to visit Europe?

The International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC) and the Convention on Biological Diversity are putting together a workshop for "Invasive Alien Species and the International Plant Protection Convention" from September 22-26, 2003. To be held in Germany, the workshop will provide a forum for invasive species researchers, and regulators to exchange ideas and to learn more about how the IPPC can be used as a tool to manage invasive species. From the conference site you can also download the text of the current IPPC.

Thanks to a member of the ALIENS-L listserver for posting information about the conference.

Sunday, July 27, 2003

Iggy Invasion

I was pretty sure I had reported on this story last week, but upon closer examination, I realized this article from was talking about green iguanas (Iguana iguana), not monitor lizards (guess Florida is having a lot of lizard problems). The green iguana, native to Central and South America, has been accidentally and/or intentionally released into the wilds of the Florida Keys enough times that sightings of the large lizards in the city of Marathon have become quite common. Right now the formerly owned pets just seem to be annoying humans with their flower-munching habits, their bad tempers and their feces. While it is currently illegal to kill an iguana in Florida, concerned citizens are looking into shooting ordinances as well as more humane solutions to the invasion.

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Saturday, July 26, 2003

Better Dead than Red?

I've been taking pictures of the insects I find in my yard (the ones that stay still long enough), and was happy to come across this bright red beauty last week:

photo of lily leaf beetle

Turns out it's a lily leaf beetle (Lilioceris lilii), a Eurafrican species which arrived in Massachusetts only a few years ago, yet has already wreaked havoc on thousands of lilies. I only have about 4-5 lilies in my yard, all clustered together in pots, and they were covered in beetle larvae this spring. I have only ever observed them on the Asian lilies, but the species has been known to nibble on some native plants, including Solomon's seal (Polygonatum spp.). If you're having problems with the lily leaf beetle, you can find out more about how to get rid of it by clicking here.

Friday, July 25, 2003

Better than Absinthe

ARS Newslink is reporting that scientists at the Agricultural Research Service, in conjunction with the Philippines Rice Research Institute, have isolated a compound in a species of mugwort (Artemisia douglasiana) that effectively fights both golden apple and ram's horn snails (Pomacea canaliculata and Planorbella trivolvis). Golden apple snails are a major pest in rice paddies, while ram's horn snails carry a parasite that attacks catfish. The compound, "Vulgarone B," is relatively inexpensive and does not appear to affect plants in areas where it has been applied. Bonus points to the ARS for using scientific names.

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Thursday, July 24, 2003

Crabby Prison Inmate

According to this article from U.S. Newswire, a "former" fish importer in New York was just sentenced to 3 months in prison and fined more than $3000 for attempting to import 780 pounds of Chinese mitten crabs (Eriocheir sinensis). The boxes of crabs were labeled as fish, but someone tipped off wildlife inspectors to the ruse. Chinese mitten crabs are one of the few species whose import into the U.S. is prohibited under the federal legislation known as the Lacey Act.

Thanks to a member of the ALIENS-L listserver for posting a link to the article.

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Wednesday, July 23, 2003

Ice Polygons

Acknowledging how difficult it would be to map every invasive plant in the world by hand, researchers at U.C. Davis are out to do it all by plane. According to this story at, the scientists flew a plane over areas of California coast invaded by ice plants (Mesembryanthemum crystallinum) and jubata grass (Cortaderia jubata), and used remote sensing to record digital images of the landscape. The ice plants gave off a distinct signature that could be easily pinpointed over the region studied, while the jubata grass was a bit harder to identify. You can read the full details of the study in this article published in the journal Remote Sensing of Environment (or if you don't subscribe, you can just read the abstract :-).

Tuesday, July 22, 2003

We know exactly what you mean

The deeprooted sedge (Cyperus entrerianus) is about to make its South Carolina debut, according to this article from The species, native to South America, has been spreading northward since it entered the U.S. around 1990. It's considered a serious threat in agricultural areas, where the seeds spread by sticking to pretty much anything that moves, or by passing through the digestive systems of grazing animals and wildlife that have apparently taken a liking to the plant. (Bonus points to The Sun News for using the sedge's scientific name.)

Monday, July 21, 2003

Monitoring Lizards

Florida is being overrun by Nile monitor lizards (Varanus niloticus), according to this story at News. How is it that Cape Coral is filled with hundreds, possibly thousands of these poisonous African reptiles? They either escaped or were let loose from people who kept them as pets. This article from has more details about the lizard situation and contact info, in case you spot a monitor lizard in the wild or want to help with a proposed research/eradication program.

Thanks to Biohabit for posting information about this story.

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