Interesting invasive species shots recently posted to Flickr...
A spiny-tailed iguana in Lemon Bay Park, Florida.
Originally uploaded by Flickerhoo
Interesting invasive species shots recently posted to Flickr...
The US Forest Service, in conjunction with a number of other government agencies and environmental groups, has produced a new video to teach hunters and anglers about invasive species prevention. Featuring stories about the ways that hunters and anglers interact with the environment, "Defending Favorite Places" is filled with examples of the way invasive species impact the environment. It also presents several good tips to prevent the spread of invasive species, for example, cleaning off your clothes, vehicle and equipment to remove any invasive species hitchhikers. Also worth noting is a recommendation to report invasive species (or any plant or animal that seems out of place!), and record its location, especially if you're armed with a GPS unit. As one of the anglers noted, if you are a "regular" at a fishing site or hunting area, you're going to be the first one to notice when some new plant or animal shows up.
You can download "Defending Favorite Places" in full-length or mini versions to show to your favorite group of outdoor enthusiasts, or enquire about the DVD version by contacting:
USDA Forest Service San Dimas Technology & Development Center 444 East Bonita Avenue San Dimas, CA 91773 909-599-1267
The Department of Fish, Wildlife & Parks in Montana is asking anyone who purchased an African clawed frog (Xenopus laevis) from the Grow-a-Frog company to either return the frog growing kits or euthanize the animals, according to this report from the Great Falls Tribune. The impetus behind this request is the concern that the frogs could escape or be released and establish in the wild. The African clawed frog has been banned in Montana since 2005, but the owner of Grow-a-Frog, a Florida-based mail order company, said that the company was only recently made aware of the ban.
Regular ISW readers may remember this post from September, about a similar situation in Nevada.
Is kudzu the new black? If Agro*Gas Industries has their way, it could be. A plant in Tennessee, started up this past summer, converts the wily invasive vine into ethanol, or..."Kudzunol." It takes about 10-15 pounds of kudzu to make a gallon of ethanol. Now, what happens when they start to run out of kudzu? Read more over at the Chemically Green blog, where they've got some serious, hard-core coverage of the issue.
Update: Here's a link to the NBC Nightly News report that spawned this post.
Some recent interesting invasive species posts in the blogosphere:
The Muskegon Chronicle is reporting that legislation that would have made ballast water treatment mandatory for ships entering the Great Lakes will not see a vote before the end of the year. That means any efforts to regulate ballast at the national level will have to start fresh in 2009.
Residents of Colorado are being asked to keep an eye out for the Eurasian collared dove (Streptopelia decaocto) this season, according to this story in Fort Collins Coloradoan. The request has been put out by Project FeederWatch, an effort from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology to track birds at feeders across the USA. The dove, which just a few years ago was considered a rare sight, was detected at more than 20% of Colorado FeederWatch sites in 2007.
The Outdoors Blog has a post and pic of two wild boars (Sus scrofa, feral pigs) recently taken by hunters in Central New York. The New York Department of Environmental Conservation (NYDEC) is also in the midst of a cooperative effort with other agencies to remove the animals from Central NY, but notes that hunters taking out single hogs from a pack will cause the rest to scatter, making rounding them up even tougher for the DEC. The post has contact into in case you've seen (or hunted) a pig in that area and want to report it.
The 2009 Invasive Species wall calendars are here, ready to be printed, sent to you, and hung lovingly (or hatefully!) on your wall or the wall of your favorite invasive species addict. The calendar features a variety of invasive plants and animals, from purple loosestrife to the Asian shore crab. All profits cleared from the sale of these calendars will be donated by me to an environmental group doing invasive species work.
The Union of Concerned Scientists is out with a new report on the state of invasive species in Ohio. The report, which covers everything from what species are invading The Buckeye State to what should be done about it, complements earlier UCS products for West Virginia, Texas and Alaska.
FOX News, among others, has the story about a new report from the Alliance for the Great Lakes indicating that an "ecological separation" of the Great Lakes from the Mississippi River Basin is the only way to keep some invasive species out of the lakes. They even go so far as to outline several specific scenarios by which this could be achieved, at numerous locations within the Chicago Waterway system. Their plans also include a call for the permanent underwater electric carp fence to be fully activated. To read the report in full, download it here.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has an excellent update on the status of the carp-fighting electric fence being constructed in the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal. The underwater barrier to carp entering the Great Lakes has been under construction for several years. Now the Army Corps of Engineers is set to turn it on, but at a lower voltage per square inch than would be needed to keep smaller fish from passing through. At issue is the safety of barges passing through the canal, and the risk of hurting anyone who has the misfortune of falling overboard.
Northern Territory News has a story about the apparent edibility of the cane toad (Bufo marinus) - "apparent" being a necessary modifier as the cane toad has long been spurned as a nasty invader so poisonous that the dogs and snakes that try to eat them soon die. But Andrew Zimmern, host of the Travel Channel show "Bizarre Foods" (and a man lucky enough to travel with his own chef) has tasted the legs of these bad toads, and pronounced them good. Or at least, he didn't die or get sick, and neither did the members of the environmental group FrogWatch who participated in the tasting. The only details the article provides about how to avoid ingesting the cane toad's poison is a mention of how the chef "skinned the legs and avoided toxins when preparing them."
On a related note, the ISW is proud to be associated with the Terrapin Procrastination blog, which posted this gem of a cane toad photo yesterday:
P.S. - Don't be taking this as an endorsement, a recommendation, or any other kind of encouragement for you to go out and try to eat a known poisonous animal. The ISW wants you to be healthy and happy, so if you have a hankering for invasive amphibian legs, stick with the non-poisonous kind (North American bullfrog, Rana catesbaeiana). :-)
Back in 2004, a study done by Oregon State University researchers revealed that wild bird seed can be a haven for noxious weeds. Weed scientists examined seed from ten different brands of seed found more than fifty different weed seed contaminants, including the very nasty puncturevine (Tribulus terrestris) and nuisance species like bindweed (Convolvulus arvensis) and bull and Canada thistle (Cirsium vulgare and C. arvense).
Now the authors of the study have gone on to make a series of recommendations for how bird lovers around the world can keep noxious weeds out of their bird seed and out of their yards. For example, something simple, like checking below bird feeders for odd new plants. But given the propensity of birds to grab seeds and flee the scene, the advice to seek heat-treated seeds may make more sense. A full list of suggestions can be had in this press release from the Weed Science Society of America, along with a list of ten of the thirty seed contaminants found in the study.
The ISW first posted about the issue of bird seed contaminants in Oregon back in early 2007.
There was an interesting new study published in last month's Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment regarding the propensity for man-made reservoirs to act as, well, reservoirs for aquatic invasive species. Researchers looked at five well-known invaders in the Great Lakes region: Eurasian watermilfoil (Myriophyllum spicatum), zebra mussels (Dreissena polymorpha), spiny water fleas (Bythotrephes longimanus), rainbow smelt (Osmerus mordax), and rusty crayfish (Orconectes rusticus). They found that the reservoirs and other man-made impoundments not only hold more invaders than natural lakes, they also increase the risk of invasive species being introduced to those natural lakes. The University of Wisconsin has a press release on the topic, or you can download the full research article.
According to this story in the Worcester Telegram, a wild boar (Sus scrofa, feral pig) was discovered along a highway in Massachusetts earlier this week. A police officer found the animal, which was seriously injured (presumably struck by a vehicle), and a decision was made to euthanize it. This is only the third record of a wild boar ever found in the wild in Massachusetts. States with established populations include California, Florida, Pennsylvania, and Texas.
I remember passing by this plant in Boston this past spring and just stopping and staring. The vine had pretty much taken over the raised bed it was in, except for the tree in the center. First time I have ever seen the invasive Japanese hops (Humulus japonicus), live and in person, and it was in the middle of one of the most pavement-locked parts of the city. Not sure how it got there, but the bed was cleared a few weeks later and the hops didn't come back (it's an annual plant).
Interesting article at the Environment News Service about the introduction of Turkestan cockroaches (Blatta lateralis) to the Southwestern USA. The vector for these creepy crawlies? Turns out they often hide in gear brought back by soldiers serving in the Middle East. This article in The Guardian notes that the insects have been hitching rides into America since the Gulf War in the early 1990s. To make matters worse, there has been a rise in the number of folks buying exotic roaches over the internet in order to raise them for lizard food, risking the accidental escape of several other non-native roach species. Yech.
Chuck over at Lounge of the Lab Lemming sent in a link to his recent pondering of the oddity that is the Australian feral camel (Camelus dromedarius). Introduced in the late 19th century, the camels have no natural predators, and are now being kept in check by human-designed population controls. The ISW has pondered this same topic several times before, but never live and in the flesh as Chuck has done. The ISW never arrived at the concept of camel curry either. Hmm...
A while back the ISW featured a post about a USGS study that predicted the potential range for the Burmese python (Python molurus bivittatus) encompassed the entire southern third of the USA. Now a new study published in the journal PLoS One disputes those claims, concluding that the range of the snakes is not likely to expand beyond Florida. The second team of researchers, from the City University of New York, claim the USGS study is faulted and that global warming will actually *shrink* the suitable American habitat available for the pythons. Want to know who to believe? Decide for yourself: check out the CUNY paper here, and the USGS paper here.
"These are ALL Cuban treefrogs. They are ALL invasive. I don't have enough BB's for ALL of them."Do head over there to see all of the photos. (Thanks to tf23 for letting me post the one to the left.)
Maine Today is reporting that state wildlife officials shocked and netted a three-pound koi (Cyprinus carpio) in Pickerel Pond last week. The fish was just one of at least two individuals spotted in the pond earlier this summer. No one knows how the koi got there, but faithful ISW readers and those Mainers in the know will recognize this as the very same pond whose claim to fame is the first and so far only occurrence of the invasive aquatic plant hydrilla in the state of Maine. What's next, snakeheads :-)?
The Reno Gazette-Journal is reporting that game wardens in the state of Nevada, having spent the past several weeks tracking down African clawed frogs (Xenopus laevis) illegally imported into the state, have discovered the source of the frogs: a Florida company called Grow-a-Frog. The company sold almost 200 of the frogs through its online store to Nevada residents before the mistake was caught (the owner claims he knew it was illegal to sell the frogs in Nevada, but there was a error made at the shipping facility). Since the discovery, the Nevada Department of Wildlife had fielded numerous calls from citizens who had received the frogs. Others who have more information are being asked to call 1-800-992-3030. African clawed frogs and regulated in Nevada (and in other states) because of concerns about them establishing in the wild and also because of the possibility that they could be a vector for the amphibian-killing chytrid fungus (Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis).
The invasive species world will likely be buzzing about this New York Times article (if they force you to log in, try bugmenot) pointing out that introduced species very rarely lead to native species extinctions. Read the NYT version and discuss amongst yourselves, or go whole (feral) hog and devour the original research article, available for free in its entirety (and free from the creepy illustrations in the NYT article), brought to you by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
A teenager in Arkansas is nursing a broken jaw after he was struck by a silver carp (Hypophthalmichthys molitrix) while riding around a local lake in an inner tube (the inner tube was being towed by a speedboat). While this might strike some of you as odd (and painful), those of you who are familiar with the tendency of the Asian carp to jump out of the water when startled are likely not surprised. The Arkansas News Bureau has the full story.
Nice shot of a spotted turtle dove (Streptopelia chinensis) in a park in Australia. As its scientific name indicates, this species is native to China, but it has been introduced all over the world, from California to New Zealand, Australia and Indonesia.
The Africa Science News Service is reporting about a threat to the wildlife in Kenya's nature reserves caused by the invasive Mauritius thorn (Caesalpinia decapetala). Also known as "cat's claw," this thorny leguminous shrub is poisonous to the large herbivorous mammals that roam the country's parks. It also forms thickets that block access to the good vegetation that animals like giraffes count on for sustenance. Unfortunately, according to the article, attempt at controlling the invader have so far failed.
The Reno Gazatte-Journal is reporting that Lake Tahoe had a near miss last week when a boater showed up with quagga mussels (Dreissena bugensis) on his vessel. The boater's last stop: Lake Mead, site of the fairly infamous first known occurrence of quaggas on the west coast. The boat was apparently decontaminated when it left that lake, but that did not dislodge the mussels attached to the boat's stern. Though officials in California are hoping the hot water treatment killed the mussels, that did not stop them from placing the boat under quarantine until they can be sure it is safe.
KPBS in California is reminding listeners who might be thinking of heading out onto the water this Labor Day weekend to keep a mindful eye on their boating equipment. With the recent discoveries of both quagga and zebra mussels in their state, California boaters are being asked to keep their boats free of potential invasive species, and that means inspecting and cleaning them from trailer to hull. It also means thinking twice before jumping from one body of water to another - officials are asking boaters to instead wait five days between launching sites. Good advice for anyone with a boat or personal watercraft.
The story of the brown tree snake's (Boiga irregularis) decimation of the birds of Guam has been well documented in invasive species literature (and here at the ISW as well). But now, word comes from The Washington Post that the impact of the introduced snakes is being felt much farther down the food chain. A graduate student at the University of Washington has done research indicating that the typical distribution of trees with bird-dispersed fruits has been thrown completely out of whack (instead of being spread out across the island, new trees grow right around the parent plant) across Guam, because, as you can guess, nothing is around to disperse the fruits. This is sure to have implications for the population biology of the plant species being impacted, and could threaten the longevity of certain species by causing an increase in inbreeding. More details about the research are available in this article from UW News.
The Telegraph is reporting that hundreds of invasive crayfish have been found dead in the UK...but that's not a good thing. The Turkish crayfish (Astacus leptodactylus) is an Eastern European species that has been introduced to the UK, one of at least four non-native crayfish in UK waters. The recent deaths of the Turkish crustacean have been attributed to a disease called "crayfish plague" caused by the fungus Aphanomyces astaci. Scientists are worried that this fungal pathogen could spread to the UK's one native species, the white-clawed crayfish (Austropotamobius pallipes). The invasive Marmorkrebs crayfish also carry the disease. Unfortunately, the North American signal crayfish (Pacifastacus leniusculus) appears to be immune.
The Asian longhorned beetle (Anoplophora glabripennis) was discovered last week in Worcester, Massachusetts, the first sighting of the species in Massachusetts (or in any of New England). Taking calls all day from concerned folks has got me beat, so rather than generating new content here, I'm going to be lame and link to this pest alert, and also decent coverage of the story from NECN.
If you think you have seen an Asian longhorned beetle in Massachusetts, I encourage you to submit a report (and maybe a photo) on the Massachusetts Introduced Pests Outreach Project website.
Update 8/8/08: The ALB has been "rediscovered" in Chicago - just a single specimen - calling the declaration of eradication into question. Scientists are not sure yet if this is a new infestation. Read more from the Chicago Tribune.
Add Wisconsin to the list of states the emerald ash borer (Agrilus planipennis) calls home...for now anyway. The Wisconsin Ag Connection, KARE 11 News, and others are reporting that EAB trapping surveys revealed the beetle's presence in Ozaukee County, which is north of Milwaukee.
Just last week, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency confirmed the presence of the emerald ash borer in Ottawa, Ontario...and a few weeks before that, we had the sightings in Virginia, and Quebec. It's no wonder that Minnesota is so worried.
For a whole slew of ISW posts about the emerald ash borer, just click on the tag below...
An NAS Alert just came through that the Northern watersnake (Nerodia sipedon), a species known only in the eastern half of North America, has been found in California. A 2007 publication in the journal Herpetological Review indicates that a breeding population has been established near Sacramento. It is likely that this was the result of someone was keeping the snakes as pets and decided to let them go in the wild. Now, California already has a Southern water snake (Nerodia fasciata), which begs the question: will they hybridize?
The Global Invasive Species Information Network (GISIN) just published a massive list of online databases related to non-native/invasive species. The list, covering all parts of the globe, currently contains over 250 entries, from the Marine Alien Species of Estonia to the Delaware Invasive Species Tracking System. If you feel like going meta and exploring the list of lists, you can also grab it in Word doc and plain text flavors.
The Marine Invasions Research Lab is reporting that the Chinese mitten crab (Eriocheir sinensis) has now been found in New Jersey, in two locations during the past month. They're also reporting additional new sightings of the crab along the Hudson River in New York. The press release is tucked away on the sidebar of their website as a pdf file, so I'm just going to paste the whole thing in here:
CHINESE MITTEN CRAB ALERT U.S. Atlantic Coast Bays & Rivers
New 2008 Reports: New Jersey & New York
Please Report Any Sightings of This Crab
Mitten Crabs in the Eastern U.S. Live Chinese Mitten Crabs (Eriocheir sinensis) have been found in Chesapeake Bay (2005-2007), Delaware Bay (2007), Hudson River (2007-2008), and most recently in New Jersey (2008). To date, there have been 19 crabs documented and confirmed in the eastern United States, including four states, all in the past four years.
In New Jersey, mitten crabs were found in Toms River (June 1, 2008) and Raritan Bay (June 17, 2008). The Toms River crab is the first confirmed record in the state of New Jersey. The male crab, measuring 50mm, was found crawling on a crab holding pen (peeler pot). The second crab caught in New Jersey was collected by a commercial waterman in the Raritan Bay near Keyport, NJ on June 17, 2008; it has been identified through pictures as an adult mitten crab, sex still unconfirmed. This crab apparently was not the waterman’s first catch, as the species was reportedly observed in the same area at least weekly for the three weeks prior to this catch.
Also in 2008, four other mitten crabs were captured in the Hudson River, New York, including one female (20mm on June 3) and three males (16-26mm from June 9 to July 18). All crabs were caught in freshwater near Tivoli, NY, approximately 100 miles inland along the Hudson River by a research scientist, who was studying eel movement on local tributaries. A total of seven mitten crabs have been confirmed for Hudson River to date.
The Chinese Mitten Crab is native to East Asia, and could have negative ecological and economic impacts. Mitten Crabs are already established invaders in Europe and on the West Coast of the United States. We don’t yet know whether the crab has established reproductive populations in the eastern U.S. The crab is listed as Injurious Wildlife under the Federal Lacey Act, which makes it illegal in the United States to import, export, or conduct interstate commerce of Mitten Crabs without a permit.
Life History. The Chinese Mitten Crab occurs in both freshwater and saltwater. Young crabs spend two-five years in freshwater tributaries and can extend many miles upstream of bays and estuaries. Mature male and female crabs migrate downstream to mate and spawn in saltwater estuaries. Chinese Mitten Crabs burrow into banks and levees along estuaries and are able to leave the water to walk around obstacles while migrating.
Please Report Any New Sightings. To determine the status, abundance, and distribution of this species along the eastern U.S., we have established a Mitten Crab Network. The Network began as a partnership among several state, federal, and research organizations, with an initial focus on Chesapeake and Delaware Bays. We have now expanded the Network to include resource managers, commercial fishermen, research organizations, and citizens along the eastern U.S. Please help by reporting any mitten crabs directly to the Network or to your state resource manager.
If you catch a mitten crab
- Commonly found in fresh waters of North America, but can occur in saltwater bays and estuaries
- Claws equal in size with white tips and appear furry (with thick mats of hair-like covering on claws)
- If you find a crab, with a carapace length over one inch and no hair on the claws, it is NOT likely to be a Mitten Crab. NOTE: Juveniles under one inch may not have hair on the claws.
- Carapace up to 4 inches wide; light brown to olive green in color
- No swimming legs. This crab has eight sharp-tipped walking legs
- Do not throw it back alive!
- Freeze the animal, keep it on ice, or preserve it in rubbing alcohol as a last resort
- Note the precise location and date where the animal was found
- Please take a close-up photo of the animal. Photos can be emailed to SERCMittenCrab AT si.edu for preliminary identification. Include your contact information with the photo
- If you cannot take a photo, contact the Mitten Crab Hotline (443-482-2222)
REMEMBER THE LAW! Never transport a live Mitten Crab across state boundaries
For additional information please visit http://www.serc.si.edu/labs/marine_invasions/ for updated Mitten Crab reports, downloadable pamphlets on the Chinese Mitten Crab Survey Program, and how to distinguish a Mitten Crab from other crabs
As a nice followup to Sunday's post about feral guinea pigs (Cavia spp.) in Hawaii, Andrew B. sends in this article about feral guinea pigs in New Zealand. This time, a Kiwi couple has claimed responsibility for intentionally releasing the cavies into an island park, calling themselves "Freedom Lovers." Luckily, there were only four guinea pigs released, and they have all been recaptured.
The Honolulu Advertiser is reporting that feral guinea pigs (Cavia spp.) are on the run on the Hawaiian island of O'ahu. Yes, that's right, guinea pigs, not hogs! Over the past two months more than 40 of the portly little pets have been caught roaming residential neighborhoods in Nu'uanu. Agriculture officials suspect the feral rodents, also known as "cavies," are the result of an accidental or intentional release by an errant pet owner, and are advising anyone with thoughts of releasing guinea pigs (or any other pets) into the wild to contact their local Humane Society instead.
Thanks to a member of the ALIENS-L listserver for posting a link to this story.
Back in January 2007, an article in the Denver Post asked an interesting question: Why did the quagga mussel (Dreissena rostriformis bugensis), found in several states in the Northeast USA, seem to skip over Colorado in its spread to the west, and end up in Nevada (in Lake Mead)? Well, ask no more, Denver Post. KOAA.com and others are reporting that the quagga mussel has been discovered for the first time in Colorado, in Lake Granby. The lake is actually a storage reservoir located on the Colorado River, which has already seen quagga mussel incursions via its southern tip...Lake Mead. The quaggas are thought to have arrived in the reservoir via ballast discharge.
Looks like the emerald ash borer (Agrilus planipennis, "EAB") is back and making its presence known in Virginia. According to this report at the Fairfax Times, an infestation has been found in Herndon, the first in Fairfax County since an accidental planting of EAB-filled ash trees imported from Maryland back in 2003. There had been no new sightings since then, so it is thought that the eradication that began the year those trees were planted was successful. That points to some other pathway as the source for this latest EAB find. A note from an invasive species listserver indicates there will likely be at least one other confirmed sighting in Fairfax County as well.
Back in 2003, the ISW posted about the controversy surrounding PepsiCo's attempts to promote farming of the red marine alga Kappaphycus alvarezii in India. Now, as posted over at Indiannotion, Science Magazine is reporting that the alga has spread from where it is being cultivated, invading Gulf of Mannar Marine National Park in the Bay of Bengal. At this point it remains unclear as to how the alga got there, since both PepsiCo and the Central Salt and Marine Chemicals Research Institute (which had been testing cultivation of the alga) are denying responsibility. While PepsiCo is volunteering funds to monitor and remove the algae from the marine reserve, scientists are concerned it may already be too late.
Interested readers will want to download the original research article from the May 2008 issue of the journal Current Science.
There's an editorial in last Tuesday's Milwaukee Journal Sentinel calling for the closure of the St. Lawrence Seaway in order to prevent ocean-bound ships from transporting new invasive species into the Great Lakes. The reasoning behind the idea is that freighters should be banned from the Seaway until the shipping industry can prove that appropriate measures are being taken to avoid introducing ballast invaders to the region. The Journal Sentinel also published an in-depth two part article on the subject last week.
Got an opinion on this? The MJS is looking for letters to the editor on the subject - details are at the end of the editorial.
Stuff.co.nz is reporting that a fanworm (Sabella spallanzanii) native to the Mediterranean may have established itself at a port in New Zealand. The marine worm was first found last month, prompting a thorough search that yielded several specimens. Given that this species is prone to forming dense mats, officials are looking into whether eradication is a possibility.
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency is reporting that the emerald ash borer (Agrilus planipennis) has been found in Quebec, the first record for that province. The insect was apparently spotted in the Montérégie region, in Quebec's Southwestern corner, close to the border with Ontario (currently home to several infestations) and close to the US border as well. The CFIA is planning to ramp up surveys of ash trees where the beetles were found, and will likely institute some kind of a quarantine to prevent the movement of ash products away from the infested area.
As reported on the ISW Twitter feed several weeks ago, the island apple snail (Pomacea insularum) was discovered in the state of South Carolina last May, the furthest north the mollusk has been found in the USA. Now Myrtle Beach Online has an update on how officials are dealing with the snails, in order to prevent their spread from the ponds they've been inhabiting. So far management efforts have included treating the ponds with copper sulfate to kill the snails, with additional applications planned if more eggs are found.
One interesting tidbit from the article: The snails were originally discovered by a 9-year-old! It was only when her mom casually mentioned the snails during a call to the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources about what fish she could stock in the pond that the DNR realized there might be a problem.
P.S. - Don't miss the photo gallery that accompanies the article!
The Mercury News, among others, is reporting that plans for the spraying of pheromones to combat the light brown apple moth (Epiphyas postvittana, or "LBAM") in northern California were scaled back. The change follows a public outcry and concern that the chemicals in the spray could cause harm to human health. The California Department of Food and Agriculture will instead focus the aerial spraying program mainly agricultural and undeveloped, and will continue to use the pheromone to thwart the LBAM through manually applied lures. In addition, the CDFA is ramping up a program to release sterile male moths that will begin in 2009.
It turns out that an unintended side effect of the subprime mortgage crisis currently engulfing America could be a rise in cases of West Nile virus and other mosquito-borne illnesses. Here's the logic: The number of people who can't pay their mortgages is on the rise, leading to a sharp increase in the number of foreclosed homes. The real estate market is flat, so those bank-owned properties are languishing, unsold, for long periods of time. Now, consider the case of Phoenix, Arizona, where the land is literally a desert and people have responded to this by creating their own tolerable microclimates, namely houses with swimming pools.
There are tens of thousands of swimming pools in Maricopa County, Arizona, which has one of the highest foreclosure rates in the entire country. Foreclosed houses with swimming pools become foreclosed houses with stagnant, algae-filled mosquito breeding grounds, and more mosquitoes means more mosquito-borne illnesses like West Nile Virus.
Still with me? Mosquitoes have become a real problem in Arizona, such that officials in Maricopa County have started a breeding program for mosquitofish (Gambusia affinis), and as reported by Yahoo! News, have started offering them for release in order to control the mosquitoes. Mosquitofish are themselves considered an invasive species in several parts of the world, and while native to the southern USA and Mexico, are not native to Arizona, where their introduction is thought to have impacted several native fish species. Let's hope the fish stay in those swimming pools.
Found an interesting article in the Boston Globe about the perennial pepperweed (Lepidium latifolium) invading coastal wetlands in Massachusetts. It details ongoing efforts by the Parker River National Wildlife Refuge to protect wetland habitat from invasive plants while also engaging local volunteers in the project. And oh, look, they've quoted some smart biologist in the article! ;-)
Some good invasive species posts have popped up in the blogosphere of late:
The Townsville Bulletin is reporting that freshwater crocodile populations in Australia are dwindling, in great part because the crocodiles are snapping up invasive cane toads (Bufo marinus)...and then paying the price of sampling the poisonous amphibians. Researchers at the University of Sydney have documented what was once anecdotal evidence, showing a 75% drop in croc numbers attributed to the toads. If you want to see a photo of an afflicted croc (not for the weak of stomach), check out the slideshow in this article from The Daily Telegraph
How would you like to own a copy of the "Consolidated list of environmental weeds in New Zealand"? You now can, as it's a free download from the NZ Department of Conservation. Maybe, though, the right question to be asking is instead "How can New Zealand consolidate a list of weeds when more that half of their flora is introduced?" They manage to do a good job of it, narrowing down the list to 328 plants, and displaying the whole thing in a nice set of tables in the Appendices that are just begging to be mined for data :-). Some notable entries:
According to this story over at The Hays Daily News, wildlife officials in the states of Kansas and Missouri are taking a closer look at their bait policies after a brook stickleback (Culaea inconstans) was found mixed in with a batch of fathead minnows that got shipped to retail bait shops in both states. Officials asked shop owners to cull their minnow stocks, removing any of the offendind fish. It is illegal to use the brook stickleback, a fish native to the northern half of North America, as bait in either Kansas and Missouri, for fears of wild populations establishing or escaped fish spreading disease. However, no shop owners were fined or cited for the incident and it sounds like they were cooperating with their states to remedy the immediate problem.
Gulf News has an interesting article about invasive species in Dubai. Scientists from the Wadi Fish Project have been finding everything from American red-eared slider turtlesre (Trachemys scripta elegans), abandoned as unwanted pets, to tilapia, stocked to provide fishing opportunities. An intriguing look at introduced species issues in a country that gets little environmental press coverage here in the USA. This older article at UAE Interact mentions additional non-native species present in the United Arab Emirates, including parakeets, mynahs and crows, and the Floridian snail Polygyra cereolus.
From a meeting I recently attended comes news that Mass Audubon has developed "Lessoning Loosestrife," a standards-based curriculum that deals specifically with purple loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria) and its impact on wetlands. They have even released the lessons online so that others can download the files for free. Topics range from wetland monitoring to the use of beetles as a biological control for the loosestrife. The project was funded by a grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, so it's really nice to see the results shared with others who might be interested in incorporating this into their own curricula.
A chinese truffle is threatening native truffles in Europe, according to this article from BBC News. The discovery that the Chinese black truffle (Tuber indicum) had established in the wild in Italy seems to have come as no surprise to scientists, who are at once disheartened and concerned about the potential impact to the prized native Perigord white truffle (Tuber melanosporum). You can read the full story in a letter in the journal New Phytologist (hooray for free content!). Also, keep in mind that this is more than just an ecological issue - truffles are an agricultural product that fetches a high price, and Europeans are none too happy about even allowing black truffles to be imported from China.
Reports at the Times Online (and elsewhere) are indicating that the state of Texas is under attack from electronics-eating ants. The "crazy rasberry ant" (no, that's not a typo, they're named after the exterminator who brought them to attention), which for now has been identified taxonomically only as "Paratrechina sp. nr. pubens," was discovered in Texas back in 2002. Since then, the ant has been a nuisance for homeowners and businesses, invading electrical equipment and sometimes causing it to short out. No one knows exactly why the ants are attracted to electrical equipment, but they are not the only species known to be. As the article notes, circuitry is not the crazy rasberry ant's only sustenance - they also eat everything from lady beetles to baby birds, and even fire ants.
An article in New Scientist details an interesting technique for dealing with ballast invaders: zap them with microwaves. Researchers at Louisiana State University have developed industrial-strength microwave generators that can heat ballast water to 55'C (131'F), killing potentially invasive aquatic organisms (and everything else as well!). Now they're working to find a way to integrate the technology into ships, providing a relatively cheap and effective method of treating ballast water. If you want to learn more, check out the original research, published in last month's issue of Environmental Science & Technology (bonus points to them for providing the entire article free of charge!).
In case you are wondering why the posts aren't quite so "daily" here at the ISW, it is because I have a new job that came with a new website and I have been blogging a bit over there. The Massachusetts Introduced Pests Outreach Project is, as you can guess, focused on the state of Massachusetts, so the flavor of the posting there is decidedly New England-centric. Feel free to stop by.
In my yard today...
In case you missed it in the Twitter feed, Maryland announced Tuesday that they are the latest state to become host to the nasty invasive alga affectionately known as "rock snot" (Didymosphenia geminata, or didymo). The freshwater algae was discovered by anglers (go anglers! :-)) at Gunpowder Falls. Click through to the press release for a map of the area and contact information if you're in Maryland and think you've found didymo.
The Telegraph has a report today about plans to introduce a biological control to Britain in the hopes of squashing the invasion of Japanese knotweed (Fallopia japonica, Reynoutria japonica, Polygonum cuspidatum, etc. etc.) in that country. This news is significant not because of the control (a sap-sucking insect) or the weed (perhaps the very bane of the UK) but for the fact that it would be the first introduced species ever approved for use as a biological control in Britain. The proposal still needs to go through a public review, so the psyllids would be on the attack no sooner than the summer of 2009. The insect in question appears to be Aphalara itadori, a psyllid that attacks knotweed stands in its native Japan. You can check out a photo of it here (scroll almost all the way down the page).
If you are in Washington State and you know some good sites to check out Japanese knotweed (Fallopia japonica, Polygonum cuspidatum, Reynoutria japonica, et al.) or Giant knotweed...and especially if you are willing to give a quick tour of those sites, please drop me an email (jennforman AT knottybits DOT COM). My Japanese photographer friend, Koichi, is planning a West Coast visit this summer, and I've been having trouble getting in touch with my contacts there.
Greetings, northern snakehead: Welcome to the wilds of Arkansas!
The AP is reporting that the northern snakehead (Channa argus) has been discovered for the first time in Arkansas, but if you want the story behind the story, head over to the AgTalk forums, where someone has posted a series of photos, including a whole cooler full of fish pulled from a drainage ditch. Plus, here's a link to an earlier post by the same person, who looks to be the one who made the initial discovery.
Thanks to a member of the ALIENS-L listserver for posting a link to the AgTalk forums.
The state of Washington had a trifecta of invasive insects on its doorstep last month, but lucky for Washington state, the door was guarded. According to this press release from US Customs and Border Protection, an inspection of containers arriving from China turned up not only non-native wood wasps, but also bark beetles and dreaded longhorned beetles. The press release doesn't list the exact species, likely because they were found as larvae (inside the wood used as packaging material), which are notoriously difficult to identify. The shipment was denied entry into the US.
Somehow, with all the press coverage of the arrival of the Asian lady beetle (Harmonia axyridis) in the UK, the news that the same species had arrived in South Africa around the same time came in way under the radar. This excellent article (pdf) in the South Africa Journal of Science indicates that it has been present there since at least 2004. Menawhile, the Cape Times is reporting that the beetle was discovered last week in Cape Town, and appears to be spreading quite rapidly through the country. Researchers are tracking this spread, and anyone seeing a suspected Asian lady beetle in South Africa [now don't be bugging them with reports from the US!] is encouraged to photograph it and contact Riaan Stals by phone (012 304 9560) or e-mail (stalsr AT arc.agric.za).
Update 04/29/08: The Asian lady beetle has now made its first appearance in Australia, though the specimens that were discovered were, thankfully, dead.
Looks like the Governor of California [trying...so...hard...not to say...THE GOVERNATOR...oh well] is taking the claims of health risks associated with pheromone spraying for the light brown apple moth seriously. The Almanac, among others, is reporting that following the court decision banning spraying in Santa Cruz County, all aerial spraying for LBAM (Epiphyas postvittana) in the state of California will cease until at least mid-August, so that thorough testing can be done to inform the government of the safety (or lack thereof) of the process.
Want to have your voice heard? The Oregon Public Broadcasting radio show "Think Out Loud" is featuring invasive species on their next episode, to be broadcast live on Thursday, April 24 (tomorrow!) from 9am to 10am Oregon time (uh, I mean "Pacific Daylight Time" :-)).
The folks from TOL emailed me to let me know about the show, and to invite you, ISW readers, to visit their web page and leave comments or post questions for the panel. If you really have something to say, you can call in during the show at 888-665-5865 or 888-665-5TOL.
Oregoners were recently lucky enough to see the debut of a new movie about invasive species, "The Silent Invasion" - the inspiration for this episode of TOL.
Interesting little piece in the New York Times today about leaf cutter ants contributing to the spread of invasive plants. A study in Argentina showed that refuse piles left by the ants act as compost heaps that created the perfect environment on which the invasive musk thistle (Carduus nutans) and Scotch thistle (Onopordum acanthium) can thrive. Here's a link to the peer-reviewed article, abstract only unless you've got a subscription.
Yet another excellent invasive species article in the Oregon Statesman-Journal on Sunday, this time about non-native slugs and snails. From the brown garden snail (Cornu aspersum) to the grey garden slug (Derocerus reticulatum), it sounds like the lands of Oregon are chock full of slimy, gastropoddy goodness. Be sure to click through to the full article so you can check out their extensive photo gallery (look for the tiny camera icons).
In a midst of green and brown, a bright yellow flower caught my eye...and turned out to be coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara). When you're out in the woods looking for signs of spring, this isn't really what you're hoping for. Especially when you've been passing by the same spot on the trail for three years and have never seen a leaf nor a fluffy seed head belonging to this forest invader.
I yanked it out - hope there aren't more where this came from
A while back I posted about the geographic distribution of the Argentine ant (Linepithema humile), an invader with a pretty impressive global spread. Alex at the Mymecos blog was nice enough to add a comment on the post with a link to his own Argentine ant range map, which is admittedly much nicer than mine. Even better, he provides a detailed description of how to identify the ant down to species (hint: get out your microscope!), including several amazing photos. Alex did his thesis on the genus Linepithema, surely giving him some serious entomological street cred, if there is such a thing...which there should be! :-)
Check out today's All Things Considered on NPR and you can listen to (or read about) how reporter Michelle Norris made peace with the fact that the pretty perennial she had bought and planted in her yard in Washington D.C. was the invasive purple loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria). With advice from a local gardener, she determined that she had to, for the good of the environment, get rid of it. Sounds like it was a beast to pull out too!
If you were in North Queensland, Australia last weekend, you could have participated in their first ever camel auction. As reported by the North Queensland Register, the camels (Camelus dromedarius) were being auctioned off as a solution for weed control. ABC Australia notes that the camels, over 1000 of which have been set upon the weeds of one small town (the same one that looks to be holding camel races this May), will eat nasty invaders including lantana (Lantana camara) and parkinsonia (Parkinsonia aculeata). This all seems a bit odd, especially given previous ISW posts about Australia's feral camel problem, but it sounds like a good weed-eating camel will fetch a decent price - up to $600 ($650AUS)!
Thanks to Bill from the Invasive Species of Eastern USA blog for sending in a link to this story.
(Psst! Read through to the end to find out about the contest!)
A few months ago I had the opportunity to interview Dave Kellam, creator of what is perhaps the most noteworthy use of an invasive species that I have ever seen: The Phragwrites. Phragwrites are pretty much what you would expect given the name, half pen, half reed hybrids made using the stems of the common reed (Phragmites australis). In the interest of full disclosure, Dave contacted me about a year ago, offering to send me some free samples, and I said "Yes!"...but it was my idea to phone him for an interview.
Dave got his inspiration for the pens through his work as an aquatic resource manager in New Hampshire. He spends much of his time on the coast, where there is plenty of Phragmites to be had. On a roadside walk by a Phragmites patch, Dave broke off a stem, and while admiring the perfect, tapered tube, was "struck by how perfect it would be in manufacturing." After fiddling around with the stem back in the office, he jokingly stuck part of a pen in a stalk, and the concept of a "Phragwrites" was born.
Following a challenge from a colleague in early 2007 to actually implement one of the creative projects he was always imagining, Dave took Phragwrites to the next level, going through the official permitting process required to collect an invasive species in New Hampshire. Dave notes that he didn't have much trouble getting the permit, since harvesting dried Phragmites stems is a "low impact process" that made it easy to avoid spreading the invader. With permit in hand, Dave began production on the first generation of Phragwrites pens. Over the past year, I have followed Dave's progress and observed the morphing of these pens into a variety of plain and fancy styles. I have to say I am impressed by the care and attention to detail that Dave gives to every part of the process, from the collection of materials (he had no problem with my probing questions about how he avoids spreading the plant :-)) to the design of the pens in a way that creates as little waste as possible yet still maintains an aesthetic appeal:
Perhaps the best part about the Phragwrites project is that Dave pledges to give ten percent of his profits to organizations that manage invasive species, and he lets his customers nominate potential recipients and vote for each year's winner. He even made a small donation last year, though he did not make a profit.
The original target audience was "people battling the stuff," but there are now hotel chains and universities expressing an interest in the Phragwrites as a green alternative to the standard pen. Dave notes that right now, sales are so good that "production is the limiting factor," and has been making an effort to invest in equipment to allow him to make pens even faster.
While Dave is happy to have found a use for this invasive weed, he is well aware of the problems it causes, and insists he "would be happy to be put out of business" if it ever were eradicated. In the meantime, though, he has been toying with some new ideas for how to put the stems of bittersweet and Japanese knotweed to good use...
To celebrate, I'm giving away prizes, including a genuine Phragwrites pen and an item of your choice from the ISW store. To enter, email one of the following to invasiveblog AT knottybits DOT com:
Someone on a listserve I subscribe to sent out a link to this web page demonstrating the monoculture-type spread of lesser celandine (Ranunculus ficaria) within forest understory in the state of Maryland. There are also many detailed photos depicting the tubers and bulbils that lesser celandine uses to reproduce vegetatively, and links to a timeline showing the progress being made as teams attempt to remove the plants from one specific site.
Oregon Public Broadcasting is set to debut a new movie about invasive species on Earth Day 2008 (April 22). Called "The Silent Invasion", the program aims to "turn Oregonians love of their state into a campaign to protect it from invasive species." Volunteer events are also being held around Oregon in conjunction with the movie's debut.
Head over to the website to catch a sneak preview of the movie, and if you're not lucky enough to live in Oregon, you can order it on DVD.
Could you kill a creature (or smash its eggs) if it spoke back to you? Julie Zickefoose had a experience of this sort when she came across a starling (Sturnus vulgaris) that called her "Mom!" Check out the story in streaming audio over at NPR's All Things Considered.
The Chicago Tribune is reporting that a man has been charged with illegally importing grass carp (Ctenopharyngodon idella) into Texas from Arkansas. Texas allows sterile grass carp, but only with a permit.
The oddest part of this story may be the reasoning behind it: it seems that William Stoner, the man charged with the crime, was using the carp to clear up ponds at the golf course where he makes a living diving for golf balls. Fish and game officials in both Texas and Arkansas broke the case late last year, and since then the grass carp have been disposed of with chemical treatments and replaced with less voracious (and legal) koi.
The Frederick News-Post is reporting that concern about the spread of the rusty crayfish (Orconectes rusticus) in Maryland has led to the state's Department of Natural Resources proposing new regulations that will include a ban on using crayfish as bait starting in 2009. In the meantime, the DNR is asking fishermen to avoid releasing any crayfish bait into the wild. The reasoning behind the request is that the native and introduced species are too difficult to tell apart.
Interesting article in the New Scientist about China getting more than it bargained for when it opened up its borders. Boisterous trade with the US and the similar range of climates that the two countries share has led to lots of unintentional species exchanges. While the US deals with pests like the Asian longhorned beetle, China is getting in return such problem species as the fall webworm (Hyphantria cunea) and smooth cordgrass (Spartina alterniflora). The New Scientist article is based on a study published recently in the journal BioScience, and thanks to the generosity of the AIBS, you can read the full text here.
The New York Times, among others, is reporting that human beings (Homo sapiens) have officially been added to the US list of invasive species. The article notes that the controversial decision was made mainly due to the ability of humans to act as a vector for transporting other invasive animals, plants and pathogens. There's bound to be a court fight on this in the near future, but for now at least, it sounds like interstate transport of people (air transport, trains and buses) is going to be even more closely regulated than ever before.
A press release from the Great Lakes Fishery Commission details new research that may lead to an effective control for the invasive round goby (Apollonia (Neogobius) melanostomus). According to the release, scientists have discovered that scent cues successfully attract female round gobies to traps. What scent, you ask, can pull a round goby away from her other activities deep in the Great Lakes? Male goby urine. The scientists are hoping further studies will reveal a way to set traps using the urine, allowing them to potentially disrupt the breeding cycle of these invasive fish.
In case you missed it back in February, The Bugwood Network, an amazing repository of invasive species images and distribution data, officially became the Center for Invasive Species and Ecosystem Health. Housed out of the University of Georgia, the Center will continue to be a goto source for information about forest pests, invasive plants, and pathogens that impact the USA, and will likely continue to broaden its global resources as well. In fact, if you deal with invasive species, you've probably already visited one of their websites, even if you don't realize it.
The Daily Times of Pakistan is reporting that Islamabad is undergoing an invasion...of toxic weeds. Parthenium weed (Parthenium hysterophorus), an herbaceous plant native to Central and South America, has established itself throughout Pakistan over the past 50 years. Given its propensity to invade agricultural areas, its toxicity if eaten by animals, and its ability to cause a rash wherever it comes into contact with human skin, Parthenium sounds like bad news. The article cites recently published research from two biologists at Punjab University...for more information about Parthenium in Pakistan, you can try here (abstract only, but there is an email address if you want to request a reprint).
A report in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer provides details of a promising treatment for dealing with invasive sea squirts. Faced with an onslaught of the colonial tunicate Didemnum in Puget Sound, one Washington biologist is testing whether acetic acid is an effective control method. Preliminary results suggest that a simple spray of the vinegary liquid kills off the Didemnum, perhaps supplanting the need for the labor-intensive plastic wrap method of killing off these marine invasives. If the treatment is successful, the US will likely owe a debt of gratitude to New Zealand, which has employed a number of innovative control techniques to deal with Didemnum (details in this report).
The Las Vegas Sun has an article about an up-and-coming tamarisk species making its way around Lake Mead. The athel tree (Tamarix aphylla) is evergreen, grows quite a bit larger than other saltcedars, and until recently was thought to be sterile and therefore not a threat. Following the removal of over 20,000 trees by the National Park Service, that opinion has likely changed (apparently Australia doesn't like it much either).
Michael K. points to this nice article in the San Francisco Chronicle about gardening with native plants. It comes with an extensive list of alternatives to invasive plants that West Coasters will likely find useful, though I recommend heading right to the source at PlantRight.org, instead of diving in to the confusing formatting the Chronicle uses for their web page. If you're an East Coaster in the USA and you feel left out, you can check out this native plant gardening guide I made a while back.
Journal Watch Online points to an interesting study that will be out in an upcoming issue of the journal Ecological Economics. In it, the authors consider the impact that tariffs have on the spread of invasive species, and conclude that lowering tariffs would reduce invasive introductions by promoting the flow of more processed products through the global economy. Their theory hinges on the idea that a raw log of wood is more likely to be an invasive species vector than a finished chair or other wood product. The article isn't out yet, but it looks like you can grab a preprint of the entire thing here. (Warning: there be Calculus in them there pages!)
No sooner did Saturday Night Live make good fun of this story about a town offering a $5 bounty on feral cats, did news come from the Des Moines Register and many others that the good folks in the tiny town of Randolph, Iowa have gone and rescinded the offer. Instead, following a mountain of protests, they will be working with the Feline Friendz of Omaha to trap and neuter the cats. The issue is probably not truly resolved though, since the article notes that the mayor of Randolph didn't realize that the cats get returned to where they were picked up once they've been neutered.
Perthnow.com is reporting that cane toads (Bufo marinus) are now *this close* to the border of Western Australia. The toads have been working their way north and west along the outer edges of Australia since the 1930s. Now only 50km (31 miles) and the Ord River separate them from the state of Western Australia. Predictions are that they'll make "landfall" by the end of 2008...though not if the Kimberly Toad Busters have anything to say about it.