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Author: Jennifer Forman Orth

Invading your brain since 2002.


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Friday, June 30, 2006

Circus of the Spineless  

A new edition of Circus of the Spineless is out over at Science and Sensibility, featuring a month of highlights in invertebrate blogging. The ISW is there, plus there is an interesting post about an introduced snail in Florida, and some great spiders photos from a Rosa rugosa shrub. Check it out!






Thursday, June 29, 2006

I LoVermont, Do You?  

A while back, Vermont's Department of Environmental Conservation held a contest to solicit designs for their sticker campaign to raise awareness about invasive aquatic species. The winner was artist and college student Holly Thompson, and she's done a really nice job:

It's very pretty, and it's not exactly screaming "Vermont!" so it should have appeal for those of you living far from the Green Mountain state. If you are interested in purchasing a sticker, you can buy them for $10 each ($9 of which goes directly to invasive species control programs in Vermont) at this store. Each sticker comes with a free day-pass for two people to any Vermont state park.






Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Off the Hunt  

Today, Indiana's Department of Natural Resources released this press release that describes a revision of their mute swan policy. The new rules make it much harder to acquire a permit to "control" (shoot) the swans - applicants now need to provide documentation that the bird is indeed a mute swan (Cygnus olor), and permits will only be issued for "nuisance" swans. Wha - are they afraid of running out or something? :-)

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Tuesday, June 27, 2006

The Stranglers  

ARS News has a short article about a joint project between the ARS and Cornell University to develop biological controls for black swallow-wort (Cynanchum louiseae) and pale swallow-wort (C. rossicum). In it, they point out that swallow-worts (also known as dog-strangling vines, though, to my knowledge, no canine has died at the leaves of these nasty invasives :-) ) are not only invading natural areas, but they are also considered agricultural threats by soybean and corn farmers. As this article notes, there are also problems with monarch butterflies fruitlessly laying their eggs on swallow-wort vines. If you click through to the profiles for the PIs on the project, you can get a full description of the research being done and links to related abstracts.

Thanks to Mr Sun! for rocking the ISW's planetary system by sending in a link to this story.






Monday, June 26, 2006

Algal Canal  

The Telegraph is reporting that the Asian alga wakame (Undaria pinnatifida) has invaded the canals of Venice, where it is outgrowing native algae and leaving a nasty scum on the water. The wakame is thought to have been accidentally introduced from the hulls of ships traveling from France, where the seaweed is grown to be used in cosmetics.

Thanks to biosparite for sending in a link to this story.






Sunday, June 25, 2006

Weekend Blog Blogging  

This past week in invasive species blogging:

  • Patrick at Terrierman's Daily Dose blogs about the conflict between anti-pesticide groups and people trying to prevent plants invasions with herbicides.
  • Chandle over at The fabulous Chandleous blogs about invasive plant removal work with Americorps.
  • Ritaxi has an interesting story (with photos!) about an invasive grass that may be getting displaced by a native one.
  • It's an invasive, but it's also a...daybed? Treehugger blogs about an odd-looking piece of furniture made from water hyacinth.

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Friday, June 23, 2006

Man, That's Cold  

BBC News is reporting on the growing concern among scientists that the Antarctic is currently vulnerable to rising numbers of invasive species. At the recent Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting in Edinburgh, Scotland, scientists noted that an increase in human contact along with climate change is making the continent more susceptible than ever before to non-native plants and animals. A code of contact for visitors is currently being drafted in order to prevent future accidental introductions. Dr. Gilbert, a scientist for New Zealand's Antarctica research program, pointed out that better knowledge of the Antarctic marine ecosystem is needed in order to even begin attempting to distinguish between which species are native and which are not.

For past ISW posts about Antarctica, click here.

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Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Death Becomes Them  

Last month there were reports of a massive fish kill in Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River, when thousands of invasive round gobies (Neogobius melanostomus) turned up dead. Now the culprit has been discovered, and it's bad news for all fish: turns out the deaths were caused by viral hemorrhagic septicemia. VHS can infect trout, salmon, pike and sea bass and is typically associated with a high mortality rate. Before this recent discovery, VHS was known only in Washington's Puget Sound and in Europe, and more recently in Ontario's Bay of Quinte and Michigan's Lake St. Clair.

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Tuesday, June 20, 2006

It's Aussie Spotted Jelly Time!  

An NAS Alert was issued today following the recent discovery of the Australian spotted jellyfish (Phyllorhiza punctata) off the coast of Texas. While the jellies have been known in the Gulf of Mexico since the late 1990s (see a list of records here), specimens have only been collected from the Louisiana and Mississippi coastlines. This is the first record of this species in Galveston Bay.

I think you mean 'PEANUT BUTTER JELLY TIME!'

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Monday, June 19, 2006

Bloomin' Onionweed  

The North County Times is reporting on the latest plant to enter the invasive species spotlight in California is onionweed (Asphodelus fistulosus). The species colonizes roadsides and irrigation channels, but as of yet, researchers aren't sure what the major vectors are that contribute to its spread once it has been naturalized. For now, California's plan is to do outreach, so that the public learns to recognize onionweed and to stop using it as an ornamental plant.

Bonus points to the NC Times for using onionweed's scientific name.






Sunday, June 18, 2006

Weekend Blog Blogging  

This past week in invasive species blogging:

  • Fragments from Floyd talks about the "Menace of Multiflora"...Rose, that is. (Thanks Tim!)
  • Hey, The Urban Pantheist is blogging about Multiflora rose too...guess it's that time of year.
  • Today Terrierman's Daily Dose taught me a new (albeit slightly politically incorrect) common name for tree of heaven (Ailanthus altissima): ghetto palm. Eh well, this post is actually from back in early May but it came up in a Google Blog Search and I liked it.

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Saturday, June 17, 2006

Weekend Photoblogging  

Binging on Spurge
Originally uploaded by urtica.

Cypress spurge (Euphorbia cyparissias) comes up every spring in large patches at Squantum Point Park in Quincy, MA. This photo was taken a couple of weeks ago. By now, the plants are being swallowed up by surrounding, taller vegetation. In another month it will be hard to find any trace of them. An invader? Perhaps. I have not observed any rapid spread, but the population could still be expanding.

There is anecdotal evidence that for many years after its introduction to New England, Cypress spurge was not setting fruit because it existed in small, widely separated patches and requires cross-pollination. These days, I find fruits on every patch I come across, but I do not know if they are viable. There are other patches of this species within two miles of the park, perhaps a bit too far for insect pollinators to travel regularly.






Friday, June 16, 2006

New in the Literature  

Some light reading for the weekend...

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Thursday, June 15, 2006

Resident Stationary Engineer Fish  

The largest marsh in Asia is currently under threat by pervasive Amazonian janitor fish (Pterygoplichthys pardalis and P. disjunctivus), according to this story at All Headline News. The fish were discovered recently in the Agusan Marsh, located in the Philippines, and are already well-established in the adjacent Marikina River. In a related story, a high-school student from the Philippines won this year's Intel International Science and Engineering Fair with his project, "Biofuel and Soaps from Janitor Fish Oil."

Tip of the virtual hat to the Protect Your Waters website for posting about this story, and triple bonus points to anyone who gets the title of this post :-).

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Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Emerald Illinois  

The Illinois Department of Agriculture reported today that the emerald ash borer beetle (Agrilus planipennis) has been found in Kent County, the first record for their state. This article from the Chicago Tribune notes that a beetle was found last week by a homeowner (yay Citizen Scientists!) and that the infestation is at least three seasons old. It will be interesting to see what happens next, because Illinois already has a rapid response plan in place to prepare the state for the possibility of the EAB's arrival.

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Monday, June 12, 2006

They're Not Bad, They're Just Drawn That Way  

As reported by ABC news and others, there is a new book out about fire ants that aims to set the record straight regarding apparent public misconceptions about their evil tendencies. In the appropriately-named "The Fire Ants," Walter Tschinkel, a myrmecologist at Florida State University waxes poetic about the little insects, declaring his love in an "epic" that is over 700 pages (yow). I have to admit, my curiosity is piqued regarding whether Tschinkel can turn around society's opinion about fire ants. Hey, remember that story about the guy in the nursing home...

Bonus points if you can figure out, without clicking through to the article, who wrote the foreword to the book (Hint: it's not him or him).

Extra credit to Floridian blogger thingfish23 over at Taming of the Band-Aid. He already has a post on the same subject, pointing out Tschinkel's assertion that the root of many fire ant problems is to be found in anthropogenic disturbances. Translation: it's our own darn fault.

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Sunday, June 11, 2006

Weekend Blog Blogging  

This week in invasive species blogging:

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Saturday, June 10, 2006

Weekend Photoblogging  

Pinkish
Originally uploaded by urtica.

Every once in a while I come across some multiflora rose (Rosa multiflora) with a little pink in the flowers, as shown in this photos. The pink is a lot deeper in the younger buds but by the time they open the petals are quite pale. Do specimens exist that have flowers that are true pink?






Friday, June 09, 2006

The Friend of my Enemy is my Friend?  

UC Davis News is reporting that researchers have discovered an interesting link between the glassy-winged sharpshooter (Homalodisca coagulata) and two species of bacteria. The bacteria (Baumannia cicadellinicola and Sulcia muelleri) live on the sharpshooters in a symbiotic relationship: the bacteria provides the insect with needed amino acids, possibly in exchange for living space. Complicating things further, the two bacteria species depend on each other, with only Sulcia able to generate amino acids. The scientists noted that the bacteria could hold the key to developing an effective biological control for the sharpshooters, already a costly invasive species in California and elsewhere.

Read the full article (for free!) in the journal PLOS Biology.






Thursday, June 08, 2006

On The Hook  

The cover story on this week's issue of The Hook is "INVASION: They live among us." I had never heard of The Hook before today - looks like it is a weekly color magazine targeted at readers in Charlottesville, Virginia. It sure is pretty, too. The article is packed with information about invasive plants and animals found in the Virginia area, and features interviews with a member of the Virginia Native Plant Society, a nature writer, and a parks official. Definitely worth a read.






Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Brownie, You're Doing A Heckuva Job  

The Cape Cod Times is reporting that scientists are concerned that a browntail moth (Euproctis chrysorrhoea) population explosion is on the horizon for Cape Cod. As the ISW first posted back in March 2004, the introduced moths have been known only in Maine and Cape Cod since the 1960s. Populations on Cape Cod have remained lowsince then. A research project by Dr. Joseph Elkinton concluded that the moth does well in coastal environments because the parasitic flies that would normally attack it cannot survive in such harsh conditions.

Dr. Elkinton has advised the Cape Cod National Seashore that they should be working to get rid of the moth now, before it becomes a problem. The caterpillars are already a known nuisance, as they have bodies covered with tiny hairs that may cause allergic reactions in some people.

The article has a nice little species profile running down the right hand side, but no bonus points because they don't use the moth's scientific name.






Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Make Up Your Mind, Please!  

For goodness sake - I'm trying to write something about spotted knapweed and when I go to grab the *synonyms* of it from the USDA PLANTS database, I see the taxonomists have gone and renamed it - again! I've just finally gotten down the spelling of "Centaurea biebersteinii" (in fact I just recently had to correct a couple of typos in previous ISW posts) and now I find out it has been renamed "Centaurea stoebe ssp. micranthos." Apparently it was reclassified as a subspecies back in 2001, at the "First International Knapweed Symposium of the 21st Century". This page from the ISSG database notes that the old name, Centaurea maculosa, which I quite liked, was actually misapplied, and belongs to a European species which is not found in North America.

I have a database I have built from the various U.S. state lists of banned plants. There are currently 17 different entries for the genus Centaurea, but several of them are duplicates confounded by confusion over naming, and I'm still trying to consolidate them. No wonder the field guides can't keep up.






Monday, June 05, 2006

Bioindicator, or Blessing in Disguise?  

Fish are dying in the Illinois River, but everyone seems thrilled - because the fish are Asian carp (Hypophthalmichthys spp.). According to this report from the News Tribune, a large number of carp have been found floating in the river since last week. As of yet, no one is sure what is causing the fish die-offs, but scientists from several groups have taken samples to investigate it further. Native carpsuckers (Carpiodes spp.) have also been found dead, but it remains to be seen if they are suffering from the same affliction.

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Sunday, June 04, 2006

Weekend Blog Blogging  

The past week in invasive species blogging:

  • The Botany Photo of the Day for May 30th is of Silybum marianum, a plant that's got a giggle-inducing genus name, and is pretty, pointy, and invasive.
  • Walking the Berkshires is Walking the Cape - Cape Cod that is. Click through to read a thoughtful post about marine invaders.
  • Judith over at Spirit of Inquiry is mapping invasive plants in California, and she's got a list of big nasties she expects to encounter.

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Saturday, June 03, 2006

Weekend Photoblogging  

Crabby!
Originally uploaded by urtica.

We were at this Sandwich, MA tide pool to see the invasive colonial tunicate Didemnum, which we certainly did. But there were at least three other invaders there too, including this Asian shore crab, Hemigrapsus sanguineus. As this article notes, the Asian shore crab has become the most common crab species on many parts of the New England coast, even beating out other invaders like the green crab, Carcinus maenas.






Friday, June 02, 2006

When The World Is A Giant Heat Rock  

Not sure why Canada has grabbed a hold of this news bit, but The Canoe Network, among other Canadian sources, is reporting that Puerto Rico's Department of Natural and Environmental Resources is considering drastic measures to deal with the green iguanas (Iguana iguana) at the island's airport. Seems the introduced iguanas love to lay out on the runways, soaking up all the nice heat the tarmac absorbs from the sun. Things have gotten bad enough that flights have been delayed, causing the government to consider several eradication measures, including shooting the lizards "with .22-calibre rifles." Not sure why they were so specific about that - sounds like it was one weird press conference.

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Thursday, June 01, 2006

Snakes on a Plain  

How did I miss this one this first time around? The University of Florida News is reporting that their researchers are behind the idea to catch Burmese pythons (Python molurus bivittatus) in the Everglades using "Judas snakes." The scientists implant radio transmitters in the pythons and then set them loose. By following the radio signals, the scientists can track their movements, which invariably lead back to other, untagged pythons. The betrayed wild pythons are then captured - so far with four Judas snakes, they've captured 15 wild ones. One important question remains unanswered, however: do the "snitch snakes" know they're wearing a wire? :-)






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