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Author: Jennifer Forman Orth

Invading your brain since 2002.


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Saturday, April 30, 2005

 
Arachnophobia

This is one of those "Odd News" stories that so often get picked up by the press: News.com is reporting that a chef in England was recently bitten by a deadly Brazilian wandering spider (Phoneutria fera). It is likely the spider came in on a box of fruit delivered to the restaurant. The man was saved because he took pictures of the spider with his cellphone cam, allowing the images to be sent to experts who identified the spider and told the hospital what anti-venom to use. But to me, the real story is that after the patient was discharged, some hospital worker, thinking the spider was harmless (?!), let it go on the hospital grounds. Experts say the spider would not have survived in the wild U.K., and I am sure there are many patients and medical staff that are counting on that.






Friday, April 29, 2005

 
Stone Crab Cold

Crab trappers in Collier County, Florida are alarmed at news that the South American Bocourt crab (Callinectes bocourti) has been discovered in Fakahatchee Bay. According to this story at NBC2 News, catches of stone crab (Menippe mercenaria) are already down, making trappers wonder what impact the introduction of another crab species will have. Biologists are concerned that the species may compete with its native congener, the blue crab C. sapidus. Apparently the Bocourt crab was discovered in back January, but just recently reported.

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Thursday, April 28, 2005

 
Put the Lime on the Coqui You Nut

Hawaiian officials are happy now that the EPA has temporarily approved the use of hydrated lime to combat coqui frogs (Eleutherodactylus coqui). As reported by The Maui News, hydrated lime is much cheaper than the currently used citric acid, and has the added benefit of not having to be applied directly on the frogs. Of course, hydrated lime dust can also be caustic to other animals, including humans, and it can raise the pH of the soil. Should be interesting to see if lime application has any long term impacts on the fragile island habitats.

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Wednesday, April 27, 2005

 
Hump Day

What better to post about on Hump Day than camels (Camelus dromedarius)? According to this report at Yahoo! News, Australia is having such a big problem with increased numbers of feral camels that they're about to start a population reduction program...by shooting them...using marksmen...in helicopters. Animal rights' groups are predictably outraged. The camels are a leftover introduction from before there were handy things like cars and trucks to transport goods. Interested readers may also want to check out this article filed by MSNBC last December.

Tip of the virtual hat to Cat Out Loud for posting about this story.

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Tuesday, April 26, 2005

 
Very Strange Days - A Review

I watched the PBS special "Strange Days on Planet Earth - Invaders" last Wednesday. Hosted by actor Edward Norton, this was a very, well, strange look at the issues surrounding introduced species. A few highlights:

  • The scientist segments were very interesting. It is always good to hear James Carlton speak. But he is just as good without cheesy "danger" music playing behind him. This show would have been better if it spent more time with the scientists and less time with the "raising unanswered questions and showing pretty pictures for people with short attention spans" segments.
  • I think they confused the invasives issue by showing cool shots of things that were not invasive. A montage of termites...leaf cutter ants...army ants...wait? Leaf cutter ants? A little voice over would have gone a long way here.
  • This is not your parents' PBS. Sure, the neat time-lapse photography is still there. There was also an excellent underwater sequence of the weevils emerging as adults and attacking water hyacinth (Eichhornia crassipes). But there were also computer-enhanced scenes to demonstrate things like seed rain and the path of a munching termite. Those looked fake to me, but there was no narration to indicate it wasn't real. Dancing rats celebrating the death of a cane-toad-eating cat were especially cheesy. I think there was a simulated landslide too. I can only hope the scene of the Nile crocodile attack was also faked.
  • I watched this show in HD, and one thing I now know is that if I am ever so lucky as to be asked to be on tv, I am absolutely going to insist on getting a makeover first. Realistic Shmealistic.
  • Speaking of makeovers, Dow scientist Claudia Riegel is lucky enough to do all of her digging for termites and checking of bait traps in a crisp new shirt and without gloves. Maybe this is a testament to the safety of Dow's insecticides.
  • The invasive South American plant Miconia (Miconia calvescens) is being spread around Hawaii in part by an introduced bird, the Japanese white eye (Zosterops japonicus), which was introduced to control insects. Very interesting. I do not envy David Duffy though, hiding out in a tent during an island downpour.
  • The show should have ended with James Carlton, noting how our ability to predict invasion is still poor. But instead it ended with another weird monologue from Ed Norton, and scene showing a businessman in some anonymous financial district, pulling a red wagon holding a bowl with a Siamese fighting fish (Betta splendens) in it. Definitely not the aquarium fish that comes to mind when you think of invasive species.
My conclusion: Watch this show when it re-airs (not sure when, but this is PBS, it must be coming up). But you may well benefit from pressing the mute button whenever there is not a scientist on the screen. Also, definitely check out the accompanying website, lots of good in-depth stuff there that the tv show did not cover.





Monday, April 25, 2005

 

Scientists at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution are so concerned over the recent proliferation of sea squirts (tunicates, ascidians) in the world's oceans, they recently convened the first International Invasive Sea Squirt Conference. As reported at YubaNet and elsewhere, researchers have been mapping the spread of these rubbery masses and hope to come up with ways to keep populations from spreading. You can see more ISW posts about sea squirts by clicking here.

Thanks to Val C. for sending in a link to this story.






Saturday, April 23, 2005

 
Not so Well-Received

The San Francisco Chronicle has this glowing review of the rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss), a Pacific coast native that has been introduced around the world. Oakland's Friends of Sausal Creek apparently feels proud of this, noting that the fish has been "well-received" and "That's pretty cool to see one East Bay treasure's gone global." I'm not sure the U.S. Department of State or Japan would agree.






Friday, April 22, 2005

 
Roly Poly All

Another interesting report is up at ScienceDaily. A student studying non-native isopods ("roly-polys") found that their presence is actually linked to increased soil nutrient levels. The article kind of twists things at the end, implying that nutrient influx caused by isopod waste would be a good thing, which is not necessarily true. Maybe if earthworms and isopods work together they can find a nice balance and things will get back to normal :-).






Thursday, April 21, 2005

 
Foxy Brown Tundra

Scientists have discovered that Arctic foxes (Alopex lagopus) introduced to the Aleutian Islands in the 18th century caused a drastic change in the ecosystem, according to this story at ScienceDaily. Islands that once had lush grasslands supported by the "fertilizer" (guano) of seabird populations were changed to tundra once the foxes began making meals of seabird populations. Fox-free islands in the same area have both seabirds and grasslands. The research is published in the journal Science - read the full text (!) here.

Thanks to Val C. for sending in a link to this story.






Wednesday, April 20, 2005

 
Tangled Bank Anniversary

A new edition of the Tangled Bank is here, and it's the one-year anniversary of this carnival of the scientific vanities. Enjoy it over at Circadiana, especially the ISW post, of course.






Tuesday, April 19, 2005

 
They Make Great Pets Pests?

Japanese pet-owners are apparently having a hard time adjusting to the country's new Invasive Alien Species Law, set to go into effect this June. According to this report from Daily Yomiuri, owners of snapping turtles (Chelydra serpentina) are frantically searching for places to bring their turtles once owning them without a permit becomes illegal. Pet snapping turtles? Yikes. There's a reason for that common name. Hopefully this new law will not backfire by leading to massive releases of non-native turtles into the wild.

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Monday, April 18, 2005

 
This Land is My Invader-Free Land

The property rights people are going to hate this: Maui News is reporting that a bill has been introduced in Maui County, Hawaii that would make it the responsibility of landowners to keep their land free of certain key invasive species. If landowners can't deal with the invader, there is a provision set up for them to pay the Maui Invasive Species Committee to do the job. One of the species mentioned in the article is the coqui frog(Eleutherdactylus coqui)...I can see this type of legislation working for plants but I am not sure how it can work for animals. What do you do if your neighbor grabs the coqui in his tree and dumps it in your yard?

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Saturday, April 16, 2005

 
Dirtbags!

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency recently issued a recall of a toy gun, but not for the reason you might expect. Turns out the Toy Clicker Rifles, imported from China, each contain a bag of foreign soil, placed in the handle of the rifle to act as a weight. Officials are concerned that the soil could be a vector for any number of non-native insects, fungi, or other pathogens, and have asked consumers to turn their rifles in so they can be properly disposed of. It is illegal to import soil into Canada from anywhere other than the U.S.

Thanks to Tony R. for sending in a link to this story.






Friday, April 15, 2005

 
It's Not All Good

Over at at the Point Reyes National Seashore in San Francisco, they're sending in the "big guns," so to speak, in the effort to save non-native fallow and axis deer (Cervus dama and C. axis) from death. The ISW first reported about the deer back in February. Now well-known primatologist and supporter of animal rights Jane Goodall has written a letter asking park officials to consider alternatives to culling the deer. Her recommendation: trying an experimental birth control program, the results of which could be used to educate other wildlife managers. Sounds interesting, but considering that the majority of top search hits for those deer species are hunting websites, I'm thinking it's not likely.

Thanks (and a prize!!!) to Ed at MonkeyWatch for sending in a link to this story.






Thursday, April 14, 2005

 
Another Year, Another NAISA

It seems like just yesterday that the ISW was posting about the introduction of the National Aquatic Invasive Species Act. Oh wait, that was 2002 (and then 2003)! Not sure exactly what happened to the "National Aquatic Invasive Species Act of 2003 (NAISA)," but according to this press release from The Ocean Conservancy, yesterday Congress introduced the National Aquatic Invasive Species Act of 2005. Here's hoping this one actually becomes a law.






Wednesday, April 13, 2005

 

Happy 3rd Birthday!!!!

It was three years ago today that the Invasive Species Weblog was born. Since then there have been over 900 posts, many comments made (both good and bad) and even some geeky CafePress gear sold.

To honor this 3rd birthday, a contest...

Submit a Post, Win a Prize

Use the "Suggest a Post" link in the top left corner to submit a current news article or recent web page item about invasive species. Best submission wins an invasive species-themed prize! All worthy news items will be posted here with credit given to the submitter.

Thank you to all of you that have offered your support and feedback over the years.






Tuesday, April 12, 2005

 
Whack-a-Toad

BBC News is reporting that a member of Australian Parliament, David Tollner, has caused quite an uproar by claiming that Australia would have more luck combatting the invasive cane toad (Bufo marinus) if people clubbed them to death with the nearest blunt object. Animal rights groups are not happy, and claim that it is more humane to kill the toads by freezing them. Bludgeoning to death something as big as my head sounds like the makings of a disgusting mess to me. Then again, putting one of those things in my freezer for three days doesn't sound so great either. Maybe Australia needs to set up cane toad redemption centers, giant freezers where you drop off your cane toad and get a dollar. Read more about this "media fiasco" via The Australian and ABC News Australia.

Tip of the virtual hat to R. Stevenson for suggesting this post.






Monday, April 11, 2005

 
Death to Smoochy

There's a new National Geographic special about invasive species coming up on PBS this Earth Day (April 20th). The series, titled "Strange Days on Planet Earth," is hosted by Edward Norton (what, Alan Alda wasn't available?). The "Invaders" episode will be the premiere, and it looks like they are going to cover a variety of ecosystems, from oceans to islands to the mainland. The companion website features links to mapping tools, expert opinions and a very cool interactive search for invaders in a virtual house.

Thanks to a member of the NEANS Panel for posting about the show.






Saturday, April 09, 2005

 
Riparian Rip-out

According to this story at easier.com, Britain's Environment Agency is asking landowners along the Surrey River to pitch in to help control the invasive aquatic plant floating pennywort (Hydrocotyle ranunculoides). The EA wants the landowners to rake out any of the plant growing around their property, making sure to keep any of it from floating downstream. Meanwhile, the EA has been working all winter to remove these plants, citing the increased risk of flooding and blocked access to the river as major problems.

Bonus points to easier.com for using the scientific name of the plant.






Friday, April 08, 2005

 
LiveJournalism

Today I discovered there is actually a LiveJournal dedicated to invasive species. Started by the appropriately named "browntreesnake", the Alien Invasive Species journal is not very active right now, but I predict this is the typical slow growth of a lag phase, soon to be followed by a massive population explosion of journal entries. :-)






Thursday, April 07, 2005

 
Inspect the Unexpected

This article from Inside Bay Area talks about the folks at the San Francisco branch of the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS). I always like reading this type of piece because of the examples offered of weird things found by the inspectors. Best one in this case is the larvae of a rhinoceros beetle.






Wednesday, April 06, 2005

 
Tangled Bank is here!

Check out the latest edition of The Tangled Bank, of which the ISW is a proud member. This week it is hosted at Respectful Insolence, and features not only an ISW post but also this excellent piece, from Chris Clarke over at Creek Running North. Chris' post is a meaty commentary about a history professor's own weblog entry about invasive species, posted last September.






Tuesday, April 05, 2005

 
Eat Your Greens

The Michigan Nature Association is having an interesting fundraiser, according to this report from The Oakland Press. This Saturday, they are holding an "Eat the Invasive" Garlic Mustard Benefit Dinner. Lucky attendees will be able to sample a variety of garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata) dishes, from hors d'oeuvres to desserts! Then, through early spring, the organization is holding a series of "Food Workdays" where volunteers spend time pulling garlic mustard. The pulled greens are then donated to a local food bank.

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Monday, April 04, 2005

 
Croaked

A study done by researchers at the University of Pittsburgh indicates that Roundup, an herbicide commonly used to control invasive plants, is toxic to frogs. As reported by SciScoop, the study was initially done to see if Roundup impacted the frogs by decreasing their food supply. The frog killer in Roundup is not the active ingredient, glyphosate, but the surfactant (polyethoxylated tallowamine) that helps the herbicide penetrate into the plants. You can also check out Dr. Rick Relea's home page here, and read the abstract for his recently published study here.

Clarification: Thanks to a member of the APHIS listserver for pointing out that it was not the glyphosate in the Roundup that is harmful to frogs, and that there are other glyphosate-containing herbicides that can be used to combat weeds and do not contain polyethoxylated tallowamine. I have corrected the paragraph above to reflect this, and shame on me for not reading the last two paragraphs of the story!

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Sunday, April 03, 2005

 
Swamp Thang

From the same slightly odd folks who brought us the "Knotweed!" PSA comes the funny and creepy "Gill Man!" PSA. In it, a woman is attacked by a swamp creature, but the true menaces are the clumps of invasive aquatic weeds that cling to them. Worth a watch (get QuickTime if you don't have it already).






Saturday, April 02, 2005

 
We Don't Need No Defoliation

The noises you're hearing are the cries of thousands of Massachusetts homeowners and the entire Mass. Department of Conservation and Recreation. They've all read an article similar to this one from The Upper Cape Codder, about how we should expect at least 5 years of massive tree and shrub defoliation due to the invasion of the European winter moth (Operophtera brumata). After that, scientists are hoping that they will be ready to release populations of a biological control (Cyzenis albicans) to keep the moth in check. Check out the article for information about uncovering signs of winter moth infestations and tips on how to protect trees.

In a few weeks, anyone that saw massive congregations of moths at their porch light this winter (mostly southeastern Massachusetts) is likely to be inundated by tiny, hungry caterpillars. They don't seem very picky about what they eat so most plants will be vulnerable. You can read more about the history of this invader from UMass Extension.

Bonus points to the Mass. media for keeping the scientific name of the moth in their articles.

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Friday, April 01, 2005

 
EPA = Environmentally Passive Agency?

I had to read this article from The Oregonian twice to make sure I got it right. Apparently the EPA did not consider ballast contaminated with invasive species to be covered under the Clean Water Act. A federal judge has overturned EPA regulations exempting ships from acquiring a permit before dumping ballast water, and now the organization that is supposed to be protecting the environment is expected to appeal the ruling. Not that I think it makes sense from an economic or technological standpoint to suddenly demand that all incoming ships treat their ballast water to kill any potential invasive species. It's just that this is not the same EPA I grew up with.

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