Friday, January 31, 2003

Tick Talk

A species of tick never before seen in Japan is attacking beetles and passing along a deadly bacteria, according to this article from The Japan Times Online. In America, this probably wouldn't be big news, but it is grabbing national headlines in Japan, where beetles are popular pets. Scientists suspect that the tick is not native, and was likely imported along with beetles collected from Africa or elsewhere in Asia. The concern that the tick will spread to native beetles is leading to calls for tighter restrictions on the import of non-native species.

Thursday, January 30, 2003

Lippia Service

Another ground cover gone crazy: The Sydney Morning Herald is reporting that lippia (Phyla canescens), once touted as the key ingredient for a "no-mow" lawn, has become a persistent weed in parts of Australia. Among other problems caused by this low-growing invader, the plants suck water from the soil with deep roots, leading to soil erosion. Populations have thus far proven very difficult to eradicate, and restoration of infested areas has been complicated by the fact that the plants release long-lasting toxins into the soil as they grow, impeding the growth of other species.

Wednesday, January 29, 2003

Trust us, Japan, they're not that cute!

A fisherman casting lines in the Shingashigawa River in Japan got a surprise when, instead of the carp he was looking for, he reeled in a nutria (Myocastor coypus), a large South American rodent. According to this article from The Asahi Shimbun, the nutria, affectionately named "Coypu-kun," was rather tame and ate from the fisherman's hand. Nutria are sometimes seen in rivers and swamps in Japan, having escaped or been released from failed fur farms.

Tuesday, January 28, 2003

Moth Man!

A man in New Zealand has been charged with recklessly violating the NZ Biosecurity Act by repeatedly importing foreign moth and butterfly eggs. According to this article from HortNews, one of the species was the pale tussock moth (I am assuming they mean Dasychira pudibunda, but in the U.S., this common name refers to Halysidota tesselaris), considered to be at high risk of infesting fruit trees and birch trees if allowed to escape (The country has previously dealt with tussock moth outbreaks). The culprit, who was keeping the creatures in jars in his bedroom (bleah!!!), claimed ignorance of the laws barring insect imports, but did admit to being aware of the danger if any insects escaped. There is currently an effort underway to publicize the UK company that provided the eggs, and to ban them from doing further business in New Zealand.

Monday, January 27, 2003

Restoring the Riverbank

The Tweed River in Scotland is about to become the focus of a massive giant hogweed (Heracleum mantegazzianum) eradication project, according to this article from Scotland on Sunday. As part of the three-year, 375,000 BP ($612,000 USD) program, over 400 miles of the riverbank, infested with the invasive, toxic plant, will be sprayed with herbicide. To learn more about the Tweed Forum's Invasives Project, which targets Japanese knotweed (Fallopia japonica) as well as giant hogweed, go here.

Sunday, January 26, 2003

Malaysian Pest Management

A pair of articles on invasive species appeared in today's edition of Malaysia's New Straits Times. The first is about agricultural pests and regulations that are in effect to prevent their introduction. The article provides details on several pest species that threaten crops (like mango, tobacco, and cocoa), and gives examples of government prevention efforts, which included the installation of a tunnel, at the national airport, that blows air on passengers, to remove any spores that could be on their bodies. The second article is about the various pests that have been discovered during inspections, from itchgrass (Rottboellia cochinchinensis) to the Medfly (Ceratitis capitata). Bonus points to the New Straits Times for including the scientific names of the pests!

Saturday, January 25, 2003

But does it smell like Garlic Mustard?

Check out the new Garlic Mustard Coffee Mug at the Invasive Species Weblog store. Yours for only $11.99. I admit, that's kind of expensive, but when was the last time you had the opportunity to buy a coffee mug that promotes invasive species awareness? And to answer that first question, the mugs are unscented.

garlic mustard mug image

Friday, January 24, 2003

Bad things come in 3's

As much as state officials in North Dakota hated leafy spurge (Euphorbia esula), they have learned to hate yellow starthistle (Centaurea solstitialis) even more. So much so, that, according to this article from the Bismarck Tribune, the state senate unanimously passed a bill establishing a zero tolerance policy for the invasive plant. Going beyond existing federal regulations, the law makes it illegal to sell agricultural seed if it contains any yellow starthistle. Also being eyed suspiciously by state officials: saltcedar (Tamarix spp.). To see the text of the bill, click here.

Thursday, January 23, 2003

Marine algae seeks fame, possible book deal

These days we hear a lot about the invasive Caulerpa taxifolia, often referred to as "Killer Algae." Turns out that it's lesser known congener from the Pacific Ocean, C. brachypus, is causing major problems off the coast of Florida. As reported at Science Daily, the algae, only recently discovered in U.S. waters, is now smothering coral reefs near Palm Beach County. Dr. Brian Lapointe of the Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institution has received EPA funds to study the invasion, with the first surveys scheduled to start today. According to Dr. Lapointe, one of the main contributions to the ongoing problem of marine algal blooms is the discharge of sewage. Here's a link to an older article on the subject, from the Naples Daily News.

Wednesday, January 22, 2003

Invasive Scuds

I have to admit, I had no idea what a scud was, until today. According to this article from the Northwest Indiana Times, and this more detailed article from the University of Illinois, scuds are crustaceans, and the non-native species Apocorophium lacustre has been found in the Illinois River. For now, the scuds at least making the river cleaner, but if their populations expand, they are expected to wreak havoc on the food web. While there are scuds native to the Illinois River, this species is from Atlantic coastal wetlands, and is thought to have been introduced via ships' ballast.

Tuesday, January 21, 2003

Starlings in a fog?

There's a battle that's been brewing between the city of Indianapolis, Indiana and several flocks of starlings (Sturnus vulgaris). According to this article from the Indianapolis Star, the animal rights group Fund for Animals, outraged at a task force's decision to poison the birds, offered free training and use of a fogging machine. The machine sprays methyl anthranilate, which has been effective at permanently scaring this non-native species away. Methyl anthranilate is a food additive and is harmless to humans. In the long term, I don't see how the fogging can be an effective solution, since the birds will just end up roosting someplace else. Instead, I prefer Mike Redmond's idea "If you can't beat 'em, then eat 'em!" The Indianapolis Star has featured several articles about the starling dilemma over the past couple of weeks, including one with general questions and answers and one about the initial delay in the planned eradication.

Monday, January 20, 2003

From "harmless ornamental" to "killer algae"

From the San Francisco Chronicle comes this excellent article about the invasive algae Caulerpa taxifolia. Colin Woodard reports on the history of this marine algae, and its suspected mutation from a harmless ornamental species into the "killer algae" it is often known as today. The article includes the perspectives of people dealing with Caulerpa invasion all over the world, as well as the feelings of aquarium hobbyists who are against banning the entire genus in an effort to prevent the introduction of a single species.

Sunday, January 19, 2003

Invasives Looming in the Background

New, for your downloading pleasure: a new set of backgrounds has been uploaded to my seamless tiles web site. This set features 15 tiles created using photos of 6 different invasive plants, including tree of heaven (Ailanthus altissima) and autumn olive (Elaeagnus umbellata). Feel free to download the tiles, which are freeware, to use tham as desktop wallpaper, as webpage backgrounds, or whatever other uses you want.

Saturday, January 18, 2003

Resisting Invasion

Scientists at the University of Montana have begun a five-year research project that will test the ability of native plants to resist invasion by non-native species. According to this article from the Billings Gazette, dozens of native plants will be grown in plots and exposed to different environmental conditions, and eventually tested against such invasives as spotted knapweed (Centaurea maculosa) and St. John's wort (Hypericum perforatum). One goal of the study is to better understand how to create native plant communities that will give revegetation projects the best chance of success.

Friday, January 17, 2003

Be aware, be very aware

February 24-28 is the fourth annual National Invasive Weeds Awareness Week. Held in Washington D.C., the event includes presentations by government agencies, posters and exhibits on display at the U.S. Botanic Garden conservatory, and the chance for you to set up meetings with your state senators and representatives. The registration fee is an affordable $35. If you're interested in presenting a poster, the deadline for submission is February 1st. Rumor has it that Woody Weed may make a special appearance.

Thursday, January 16, 2003

Risk assessment for Hawaii

Researchers have completed a risk assessment study that screens plants to determine the risk of a species becoming invasive if it is introduced to Hawaii. According to this article from the from the Star Bulletin, there is talk of implementing a policy that requires evaluation of any species not on a pre-approved "white" list before it can be imported into the state. Some in the nursery/landscape industry are concerned that the policy would be too strict, and would prefer to work with the state to come up with voluntary guidelines. But Hawaii has already been subjected to such devastation from intentionally introduced plants and animals, it is likely that officials will lean towards legislation that makes regulation mandatory. You can read more about the risk assessment procedure, developed by scientists at the University of Hawaii, by clicking here.

Wednesday, January 15, 2003

That's not amusing, not one bit

According to this article in the People's Daily, the Fishery Department of the government of China has recommended banning the importation of the South American piranha (Serrasalmus spp.) and eradicating what is already in the country. The carnivorous fish, known as "fish-wolf" in China, was first introduced there in the mid-1980's, as an attraction in amusement parks. Piranha are now considered a threat to the country's freshwater ecosystems.

Monday, January 13, 2003

Treasure Hunt

The Invasive Species Weblog is now equipped with a search engine. In the panel to your left, there is now a search window. So if you got here from another search engine but the subject you were searching for ins't on this page, or if you just want to see if there are blog entries on a certain topic, Atomz Search is here to help!

Sunday, January 12, 2003

Booming Populations of Pike

Lake Davis, a California lake close to Reno, Nevada, is being overrun with the invasive northern pike (Esox lucius ), a potential threat to the trout fishery there. According to this article in the Reno Gazette Journal, officials are fighting back by literally blasting the fish out of existence. Starting this spring, when the ice on the lake has begun to melt, a blasting cord will be used to kill the fish with an underwater shockwave. Any trout killed will be replaced. Officials know that this is only a temporary fix, and are looking for a more permanent way of eliminating northern pike from the lake. There is also great concern that the fish will spread to the nearby San Joaquin river delta, where they could impact salmon fisheries. Northern pike, while native to North America, is not native to the west coast. Lake Davis is a man-made lake.

Saturday, January 11, 2003

That'll cost you 50 clams or more

New Hampshire residents are now restricted to a single day per week of clamming (it used to be two days), according to this story in the Portsmouth Herald. State officials are concerned about the drop in survival rates for "yearling" clams that are in their first year of life. One possible culprit may be the green crab (Carcinus maenas), a European invader and predator of the clams. Green crab populations have recently undergone a noticeable increase. (Bonus points to the Portsmouth Herald for using the green crab's scientific name in the article!)

Thursday, January 09, 2003

It's the Law!

This past Wednesday, Rep. Vernon Ehlers of Michigan introduced House Resolution #266, the National Invasive Species Council Act. The legislation seeks to have various government departments share the responsibility of the council, and to add representatives from departments that weren't around when former President Clinton created the council in 1999. If the legislation is approved, the Council for Environmental Quality will work with the council to create a set of management guidelines. Don't worry, I'm a bit confused too. You can keep track of the bill's progress by going here and typing in "hr266."

Thanks to a member of the Yahoo! group ma-eppc for posting information about the conference.

Wednesday, January 08, 2003

Palm Beach County backs down...a little

According to this article in the Sun Sentinel, officials in Palm Beach County have tentatively agreed to relax their ultra-strict policy banning several invasive plant species and requiring their removal. This is likely to come as a great relief to anyone with full-grown melaleuca (Melaleuca quinquenervia) or Australian pine (Casuarina equisetifolia) on their property, since they no longer have to spend thousands of dollars getting rid of those trees. For those with old-world climbing fern (Lygodium microphyllum) or air potato vine (Dioscorea bulbifera ) on their property, there is a more creative solution: someone from the county will come to their property and kill those invasives, as long as the owner agrees to continue the eradication process.

Tuesday, January 07, 2003

Cacti Comeback

In one of the better known success stories of biological control, prickly pear cacti (Opuntia spp.), invasive in Australia, were nearly wiped out by the Cactoblastis moth (Cactoblastis cactorum) in the 1930's. Now comes news that prickly pear may be making a comeback. In Southern Australia, populations of the cacti are starting to spread, but in scattered remote areas, making biocontrol difficult. One scientist suspects that they are dealing with a different species, Opuntia robusta, and that a search for a new biocontrol is necessary.

Monday, January 06, 2003

Over here, you sexy crayfish!

In an effort to rid their rivers of the invasive North American signal crayfish (Pacifastacus leniusculus), British scientists are setting pheromone traps in the water to make males think they've found a mate. According to this article in the Independent, crayfish that take the bait will be killed humanely. (Oh come on, you know they'll be cooking up seafood gumbo! :-) You can read an older story about this from the BBC by clicking here.

Sunday, January 05, 2003

Doing what vines do

Old World climbing fern (Lygodium microphyllum) is the most invasive plant in Florida, surpassing even melaleuca (Melaleuca quinquenervia), according to this article from the Orlando Sentinel. Native to Australia, the fern is taking over portions of the Everglades, creeping along the ground, finding its way up trees, and smothering them with dense foliage that blocks out sunlight. It's difficult to fight such a species with herbicides, since it tends to be intricately intertwined with its victims. Researchers are currently studying two insects as potential biological controls, but for now the invasion continues. You can listen to an audio program on the topic by clicking here.

Saturday, January 04, 2003

Time is running out!

I finally finished the second item for sale in my CafePress shop: the Invasive Plants Wall Clock. It features 12 differect invasive plant species and their common and scientific names. I put a lot of work into getting the photos just right, and I'm pretty pleased with the results (I ordered one for myself so I'll know for sure in a week or so). You can get your own for $11.99 + s/h (I make a paltry $1.00 from the sale of each clock). image of Invasive Plant wall clock from CafePress

Friday, January 03, 2003

Flipping the Birds

How can I resist posting a link to a story that has a quote like this: "Would you really like to eat your supper if a bird came up and took a dump in the middle of your T-bone steak?" That's how farmer Jerry Seimers feels about starlings (Sturnus vulgaris), which have invaded his land by the thousands. The flocks have resisted every attempt to scare them off, from loud music to fake owls, and now the USDA has stepped in to help Mr. Seimer get rid of the starlings by feeding them poisoned food pellets. No one's happy about having to poison so many birds, but the farm is already benefiting from the reduced starling populations, with native birds already starting to reappear.

Thursday, January 02, 2003

More Carping

Officials in Austin, Texas are proceeding with their plans to introduce grass carp (Ctenopharyngodon idella) into Lake Austin to fight the invasive aquatic plant Hydrilla (Hydrilla verticiallata), according to this article in the Austin American-Statesman. As previously reported in this blog, tests have shown that the carp, which are also invasive species, are unlikely to escape from the lake into nearby river systems. The fish make their grand entrance this February, followed by herbicide application and mechanical hydrilla removal in the spring. They join another enemy of hydrilla, the asian hydrilla leaf mining fly (Hydrellia pakistanae), which was introduced to the lake in October 2002.

Thanks to D.V. for sending in the link to this article.

Wednesday, January 01, 2003


According to this article in the Daily Southtown, officials are so pleased with the success of a temporary electric barrier in the Chicago Canal, used to keep Asian carp from invading, that they have decided to build a permanent barrier. The new barrier, which will cost $7 million, will be paid for by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and is built to last 30 years...will it be enough?