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Author: Jennifer Forman Orth

Invading your brain since 2002.


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Monday, June 30, 2008

Your Biggest Fanworm  

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.

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Thursday, June 26, 2008

Bonjour, L'Agrile du Frêne  

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.

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Sunday, June 22, 2008

All Snails Final  

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!

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Friday, June 20, 2008

Spray Canned  

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.

Thanks to Dawn E. for sending in a link to this story.

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Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Subprime  

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.

Thanks to George H. for sending in a link to this story.

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Sunday, June 15, 2008

Pontificating On Perennial Pepperweed  

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! ;-)

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Thursday, June 12, 2008

Weekday Blog Blogging  

Some good invasive species posts have popped up in the blogosphere of late:

  • bootstrap analysis has summaries of two recently published papers about invasive plants, one featuring garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata) and the other featuring periwinkle (Vinca minor) - yes, periwinkle.
  • The Lobster Fact Blog has a post about black tiger shrimp (Penaeus monodon) rediscovered off the coast of North Carolina. This is the second sighting in as many years in that part of the Atlantic. I don't get whether the LFB is a splog or not, but this is the first I've heard of the tiger shrimp invasion, so I'll link to them. Who knows, maybe I'll get a lobster-gram ;-). Thanks to Deb H. for sending this one in!

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Monday, June 09, 2008

Crocodile Tears  

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

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Thursday, June 05, 2008

Get Consolidated  

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:

  • Prunus persica (Peach!) as an island invader
  • Spartina alterniflora (smooth cord grass) - is there anywhere we haven't introduced that plant, including our own West Coast?
  • The knotweeds listed under genus Reynoutria - I thought the battle of genera was narrowed down to Fallopia vs. Polygonum long ago, but then here comes Reynoutria bouncing back!

A pretty interesting read, and one many of us outside of New Zealand would never have seen had the government not released this doc to the internet. Thanks to Andrew B. for sending in a link!

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Tuesday, June 03, 2008

If Not For The Courage Of The Fearless Crew...  

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.

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