Monday, March 31, 2003

Something Fishy This Way Comes is reporting that environmentalists in Queensland, Australia are calling on the government to hasten their response to the presence of the invasive fish tilapia (Tilapia spp.) near a dam in north Queensland. While screens are supposed to be installed at the end of 2003, there are complaints that this is not soon enough, and great concern that the tilapia will escape in to the Gulf of Carpentaria. For another take on tilapia control, see this previous blog entry.

Sunday, March 30, 2003

Thanks for sharing

One important nugget of information comes from this report from ABC News (and virtually every other news source) about a speech Interior Secretary Gale Norton gave for the National Wildlife Federation: "When I talk with the president about invasive species, he understands firsthand because he manages those issues himself on his own ranch." Well, I feel much better now.

Friday, March 28, 2003


The Guardian has a story about the report on invasive species just released by the UK Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs. The report outlines goals for a comprehensive program to limit the ecological and economic impact of invasives, with a focus on prevention and rapid response to species in the earliest stages of invasion. You can read either the entire report or a summary by going here.

Thursday, March 27, 2003

Pulling and pulling and pulling...

After about five weeks, crews at Lake Wilson in Hawaii have managed to remove 26,000 cubic yards (19,900 m^3) of the Salvinia molesta that has infested lake waters, which amounts to about 25 percent. According to this article from the Honolulu Advertiser, the weeds they're pulling are dead after being sprayed with herbicide a few weeks ago. The article also mentions a similar project going on at Kawainui Marsh, where volunteers are removing salvinia as well as water lettuce (Pistia stratiotes). It is probably frustrating for Hawaiians to know that no matter how good of a job they do, this is likely a lifetime maintenance project, given the difficulty in eradicating any aquatic species. You can read previous blog entries about Lake Wilson by clicking here.

Wednesday, March 26, 2003

Spring, when young Japanese knotweed rhizomes burst forth with new shoots...

A sure sign it's spring: hits on The Knotweed Page, one of my other web sites, are way up, especially from people in the UK. Getting frustrated while searching for the perfect knotweed antidote? Take a break and check out photos of the UMass Boston Japanese knotweed exhibit from this year's New England Spring Flower Show, or maybe buy yourself a cute Knotweed-Hating Teddy Bear. And if you are from the UK, a good starting place for resolving your Fallopia japonica, Reynoutria japonica and Polygonum cuspidatum problems is the Japanese Knotweed Control Forum for Cornwall web site.

Tuesday, March 25, 2003

Food or Foe?

As entrepreneurs in several countries turn to tilapia (Tilapia spp.) aquaculture as a new food source/income, Townsville, Australia held their annual tilapia fishing competition this past weekend. The fish are considered a pest species in Australia's rivers, and are known locally by the affectionate nickname "toad of Townsville's waterway" (not a very nice thing if you're a toad I guess). Unfortunately, as reported in the Townsville Bulletin, only one tilapia was caught that day.

Monday, March 24, 2003


An annoyingly worded article from the Financial Times reports that France has "declared war" on the American bullfrog (Rana catesbeiana). The frogs have become invasive in southwestern France, where they are causing harm to other amphibians, mostly by eating them. American bullfrogs have also caused problems across the U.S. and in Canada.

Sunday, March 23, 2003

Read it and weep

Here are links to abstracts for a few interesting articles that have appeared recently in the biological journals:

Friday, March 21, 2003

Some Light Reading

For those of you with some spare time, Jim Beers has published a 7-part position piece on invasive species as part of the American Land Rights Association's web site. A 33-year veteran of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Department, Jim makes some interesting points about the whole invasive species issue, touching on such sticky issues as how to decide what's native (and why we should care) and why it makes sense to him to focus eradication efforts on species directly affecting our economy or human health. He seems convinced that the National Aquatic Invasive Species Act will pass because no one wants to be seen as being against fighting invasives, and claims that politicians are being extensively lobbied by parties that seek to benefit from the NAISA, like states with big invasive species problems and universities that want more research funds. There's a lot of information and opinion here, and while you may find yourself disagreeing with it, it is well-presented and definitely worth checking out.

Thursday, March 20, 2003

Fungal Forest

After over a century of introducing pathogens to eastern forests in the hopes that one of them would help fight the spongy moth (Lymantria dispar), looks like we've finally had some success. According to this article from the NEPA News, introduction of the Asian fungus Entomophaga maimaiga has worked so well that this year, states like Pennsylvania won't even have to spray insecticides to prevent the massive tree defoliation that typically occurs when spongy moth caterpillars invade the forests. Ironically, Entomophaga itself was accidentally introduced to the U.S. in the 1980's.

Wednesday, March 19, 2003

Taking a Dive

The investigation into how zebra mussels (Dreissena polymorpha) were introduced to the Milbrook Quarry in Virginia continues. According to this article from Hampton Roads Daily Press, the fact that the quarry is frequently used for scuba training had led officials to point their fingers at divers, reasoning that the invasive species were introduced intentionally to clear up the water. The dive community is denying responsibility, and some are suggesting that the zebra mussels could have been introduced accidentally through contaminated diving equipment or by waterfowl, especially since juveniles are very tiny and difficult to detect. Sounds like it's time for Virginia to kick their public education campaign, which asks divers, boaters, etc. to clean their equipment prior to entering new body of water, into high gear.

Tuesday, March 18, 2003

Battle Ground

The Oregonian is reporting that the appropriately named Battle Ground Lake is under seige from the invasive aquatic plant known as Brazilian elodea (Egeria densa). It is suspected that this well known staple of the aquarium hobby was introduced to Washington and Oregon by unthinking aquarium owners, and is now being spread by boats and waterfowl. Officials are preparing to treat the lake with the herbicide Diquat and then reintroduce native plant species.

Monday, March 17, 2003

Volunteerism at its best

A great story from the Curry Coastal Pilot: Alice Pfand, a volunteer in Oregon monitoring Garrison Lake for zebra mussels (Dreissena polymorpha), found some odd snails and sent a photo in for identification. Turns out they were New Zealand mudsnails (Potamopyrgus antipodarum), the first siting of the invasive mollusk in that state. The mudsnails have been known in the western U.S. since the 1980's, when they were discovered in a river in Idaho. As a reward, Alice got an "Eagle Eye Award," given by Oregon specifically for assistance in the battle against invasive species.

Sunday, March 16, 2003

Think "Big, Pink Starlings"

You may have heard of the Chilean flamingo (Phoenicopterus chilensis) that escaped from an aviary in the late 1990's and now winters on Great Salt Lake in Utah. Affectionately named "Pink Floyd," the bird will hopefully go down in history as an anecdote, unless members of the group "Friends of Floyd" have their way. According to this column in The Salt Lake Tribune, FoF seeks to introduce more Chilean flamingos to the lake (and to another lake in Montana) so that Floyd will have some companionship. Of course, the likelihood of these tropical birds becoming the next starlings is pretty small, but why displace native species? Perhaps a better solution would be to recapture Floyd and find him companionship in another zoo or aviary. You can read an older article about Floyd by clicking here.

Friday, March 14, 2003

Weed or Knot?

If you're in the Boston area, consider checking out this year's New England Spring Flower Show, which runs March 15-23. If you go, you can check out the exhibit I worked on in conjunction with Jim Allen from the UMass Boston Greenhouse, titled "Weed or Knot?" The exhibit features much of the research I did on Japanese knotweed (Fallopia japonica), and if you're lucky, you can get a free bookmark.

piece of knotweed bookmark

Thursday, March 13, 2003

Carp is good food

According to this article from The Ottawa Citizen, Asian carp are not only being sold in Ottawa fish markets, they are being sold live. Seems that if you're a fan of carp, you like it really, really fresh. Area scientists are concerned that the fish could escape or will be released into the wild, where they could cause major damage. The article also discusses the proposed Asian carp ban in Chicago.

Wednesday, March 12, 2003

Unwanted Hitchhikers

The New Zealand Herald is reporting that 2 exotic species of mosquito were discovered Tuesday on a ship at port in Auckland. Larvae and pupae were found in tires being used to secure a piece of equipment (talk about a thorough check!). The ship, which last docked in American Samoa, was treated with a control agent in the area where the mosquitos were found. The exact species of mosquito have yet to be determined.

Tuesday, March 11, 2003

Homeland Security?

Hawaii is getting help from the Army and National Guard in their battle against the invasive aquatic kariba weed (Salvinia molesta). According to this article from the Honolulu Advertiser, dozens of soldiers will be chipping in to mechanically remove tons of the weed from Lake Wilson. The plants, which cover almost every inch of the lake, have also been sprayed with herbicide to impede their growth.

Monday, March 10, 2003

Mmmm, Extra Protein

Consumers in New Zealand are being asked to do something that I suspect Americans would never tolerate: ignore bugs in their food. According to this story at HortNews, lettuce growers, unable to find a solution for the infestation of lettuce aphids (Nasonovia ribis-nigri) currently plaguing parts of the country, are encouraging consumers to simply wash off the aphids and remove any spotted leaves. The growers insist that the iceberg-type lettuce, which has a heart of tightly clustered leaves in which the aphids can easily hide, is perfectly safe to eat (perhaps even better than a head of lettuce that's been sprayed with pesticide a dozen times).

Sunday, March 09, 2003

Biological Control in Africa

South Africa is turning to a caterpillar to fight the invasive paraffin plant (Chromolaena odorata), a New World tropical weed that has taken over acres of land since it was accidentally introduced in the 1950's. According to this article from, researchers have imported a Cuban strain of the caterpillars, after grubs from Florida didn't perform as well as had been hoped. The Central American grubs are apparently a better match for the populations of plants, also known as Siam weed, that proliferate in South Africa.

Saturday, March 08, 2003

Law and Disorder

Congress has finally introduced the legislation for research and control of aquatic invasive species, as reported in the Portsmouth Herald. As of right now, things are a little messy, with the House of Representatives submitting two bills instead of one, after deciding to devote one specifically to research. To find out more details about the bills, including which members of Congress supported them (both now and in their previous incarnation), go here and click on "Learn More About This Issue". Note that it will take a few days for the government to post the text of the bills (HR1080, HR1081, and S525) on their website.

Friday, March 07, 2003

Hide and Seek

Sometimes search engines log the front page of this weblog and not the archives. It means that you might come here expecting to read about the Marmorkrebs crayfish, only to find that there's nothing here about it. That's why I've installed the Atomz search engine, conveniently located in the left column of every page. The top search since the program was installed two months ago is for "starling".

Thursday, March 06, 2003

Emerald City of Ohio

The emerald ash borer beetle (Agrilus planipennis) has expanded its non-native range, and the ash trees are quaking like aspen. According to this article from WCMH NBC-4 News, larvae were found about two weeks ago in ash trees growing in a suburb of Toledo, Ohio. This is the first sign of the Asian beetle in that state; it has previously been restricted to Michigan and Ontario, Canada.

Wednesday, March 05, 2003


According to this article from the BBC News, protesters are up in arms over the plans of conservation organizations in Britain to kill thousands of black rats (Rattus rattus) that have infested Lundy Island. The program actually began last November, and is scheduled to conclude in mid-April, but that hasn't stopped Animal Aid from staging a protest yesterday in an attempt to stop the slaughter. The "culling" was planned following concerns that the rats (more than 40,000 of them!) have been eating eggs and chicks, devastating populations of puffins (Fratercula artica) and Manx shearwaters (Puffinus puffinus) that nest on the island. To read Animal Aid's view, click here. You can read more about the Lundy Seabird Recovery Project at this site.

Tuesday, March 04, 2003

A Kikuyu in the head

If you're familiar with the invasive plant known as Kikuyu grass (Pennisetum clandestinum), you may want to take a look at this document from the USDA. It describes a proposal to remove two cultivars of the grass, Whittet and AZ-1, from the federal noxious weed list. The government is seeking more information about these cultivars, after complaints that they were lumped together as "noxious" with the wild parent plant. Comments from any interested parties are welcome until April 11 through this site.

Monday, March 03, 2003

Water Hyacinth Biocontrol

National Geographic has this report about the introduction of five different insects to South Africa to fight the invasive water hyacinth (Eichhornia crassipes). The insects, which include the moth Niphograpta albiguttalis, are all native to the Amazon Basin, and each targets a specific part of the plant. Researchers are counting on the bugs to bring populations of the aquatic weed down to manageable proportions. (Bonus points to NG for printing the species names.)

Sunday, March 02, 2003

Walla Walla Wallaby

Wallabies, native to Australia, are considered pests in New Zealand, and have been targeted for eradication. But according to this article from Stuff NZ, one lucky species, the tamar wallaby (Macropus eugenii), has been issued a reprieve, based on the fact that it is now extinct in its homeland. As a result, Australia is paying to ship them back home, a far better fate than ending up on someone's dinner table.

Thanks to a member of the ALIENS-L listserver for posting the wallaby article.