Thursday, July 31, 2003

"Bees Aggressive, Bees Bees Aggressive!"

At the end of this interesting article about bumblebees from the Japan Times, there is a brief discussion of the fact that European bumblebees (Bombus terrestris) were introduced to Japan in the early 1990s for the pollination of tomato plants. They escaped in the mid 1990s, and since then the aggressive insects have been suspected of outcompeting native species for food and shelter. They can also hybridize with the native B. hypocrita. Japanese companies are now apparently trying to breed native bumblebee species for commercial use.

Wednesday, July 30, 2003

Pike's Peak

Seems like state officials in California are having no luck in their efforts to rid Lake Davis of the northern pike (Esox lucius) and prevent the fish from being introduced to the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta. As reported by the San Francisco Chronicle, plans now being considered include the option of draining the entire lake down to small pools and poisoning those pools. Since the year 2000, the California Department of Fish and Game has killed over 30,000 pike, 5200 just in this month alone. You can read previous blog entries about the Lake Davis pike problem here and here.

Tuesday, July 29, 2003

Colorado couldn't care less...about Tamarisk

This Saturday is the fifth annual Colorado Cares day. According to this article from the Rocky Mountain News, the goal for this year is to rid the state of the invasive water-hungry tree known as tamarisk (Tamarix spp.). Even the governor of Colorado has pledged to join in on the weed pulling, and if you're in Colorado the article provides contact information, so you too can get involved.

Monday, July 28, 2003

Excuse to visit Europe?

The International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC) and the Convention on Biological Diversity are putting together a workshop for "Invasive Alien Species and the International Plant Protection Convention" from September 22-26, 2003. To be held in Germany, the workshop will provide a forum for invasive species researchers, and regulators to exchange ideas and to learn more about how the IPPC can be used as a tool to manage invasive species. From the conference site you can also download the text of the current IPPC.

Thanks to a member of the ALIENS-L listserver for posting information about the conference.

Sunday, July 27, 2003

Iggy Invasion

I was pretty sure I had reported on this story last week, but upon closer examination, I realized this article from was talking about green iguanas (Iguana iguana), not monitor lizards (guess Florida is having a lot of lizard problems). The green iguana, native to Central and South America, has been accidentally and/or intentionally released into the wilds of the Florida Keys enough times that sightings of the large lizards in the city of Marathon have become quite common. Right now the formerly owned pets just seem to be annoying humans with their flower-munching habits, their bad tempers and their feces. While it is currently illegal to kill an iguana in Florida, concerned citizens are looking into shooting ordinances as well as more humane solutions to the invasion.

Saturday, July 26, 2003

Better Dead than Red?

I've been taking pictures of the insects I find in my yard (the ones that stay still long enough), and was happy to come across this bright red beauty last week:

photo of lily leaf beetle

Turns out it's a lily leaf beetle (Lilioceris lilii), a Eurafrican species which arrived in Massachusetts only a few years ago, yet has already wreaked havoc on thousands of lilies. I only have about 4-5 lilies in my yard, all clustered together in pots, and they were covered in beetle larvae this spring. I have only ever observed them on the Asian lilies, but the species has been known to nibble on some native plants, including Solomon's seal (Polygonatum spp.). If you're having problems with the lily leaf beetle, you can find out more about how to get rid of it by clicking here.

Friday, July 25, 2003

Better than Absinthe

ARS Newslink is reporting that scientists at the Agricultural Research Service, in conjunction with the Philippines Rice Research Institute, have isolated a compound in a species of mugwort (Artemisia douglasiana) that effectively fights both golden apple and ram's horn snails (Pomacea canaliculata and Planorbella trivolvis). Golden apple snails are a major pest in rice paddies, while ram's horn snails carry a parasite that attacks catfish. The compound, "Vulgarone B," is relatively inexpensive and does not appear to affect plants in areas where it has been applied. Bonus points to the ARS for using scientific names.

Thursday, July 24, 2003

Crabby Prison Inmate

According to this article from U.S. Newswire, a "former" fish importer in New York was just sentenced to 3 months in prison and fined more than $3000 for attempting to import 780 pounds of Chinese mitten crabs (Eriocheir sinensis). The boxes of crabs were labeled as fish, but someone tipped off wildlife inspectors to the ruse. Chinese mitten crabs are one of the few species whose import into the U.S. is prohibited under the federal legislation known as the Lacey Act.

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

Wednesday, July 23, 2003

Ice Polygons

Acknowledging how difficult it would be to map every invasive plant in the world by hand, researchers at U.C. Davis are out to do it all by plane. According to this story at, the scientists flew a plane over areas of California coast invaded by ice plants (Mesembryanthemum crystallinum) and jubata grass (Cortaderia jubata), and used remote sensing to record digital images of the landscape. The ice plants gave off a distinct signature that could be easily pinpointed over the region studied, while the jubata grass was a bit harder to identify. You can read the full details of the study in this article published in the journal Remote Sensing of Environment (or if you don't subscribe, you can just read the abstract :-).

Tuesday, July 22, 2003

We know exactly what you mean

The deeprooted sedge (Cyperus entrerianus) is about to make its South Carolina debut, according to this article from The species, native to South America, has been spreading northward since it entered the U.S. around 1990. It's considered a serious threat in agricultural areas, where the seeds spread by sticking to pretty much anything that moves, or by passing through the digestive systems of grazing animals and wildlife that have apparently taken a liking to the plant. (Bonus points to The Sun News for using the sedge's scientific name.)

Monday, July 21, 2003

Monitoring Lizards

Florida is being overrun by Nile monitor lizards (Varanus niloticus), according to this story at News. How is it that Cape Coral is filled with hundreds, possibly thousands of these poisonous African reptiles? They either escaped or were let loose from people who kept them as pets. This article from has more details about the lizard situation and contact info, in case you spot a monitor lizard in the wild or want to help with a proposed research/eradication program.

Thanks to Biohabit for posting information about this story.

Saturday, July 19, 2003


Giant hogweed (Heracleum mantegazzianum) may be getting most of the attention, but wild parsnip (Pastinaca sativa) is still a danger in its own right. The Daily Star is reporting that wild parsnip, also a danger due to its phototoxic sap, is spreading throughout Delaware County in New York. The plant does well along highways, not good news for road crews that can no longer spray herbicides.

Friday, July 18, 2003

New in Print

Some invasive species articles recently published (links are to abstracts):

Thursday, July 17, 2003

Sedge on the edge

As reported by the Tri-Town News in New Jersey, Walmart recently gave a grant to Georgian Court College for an invasive species study helmed by Dr. Louise Wootton. The amount of the grant, which will provide part of an undergrad's stipend: $500 (Come on Walmart, cough up some dough!). The real story here is that Dr. Wootton will be studying the relatively unknown Asiatic sand sedge (Carex kobomugi), a coastal invader that threatens fragile dune habitats. The study seeks to map populations of the sedge using GIS and to use that information to predict how fast and where it will spread. (Bonus points to the Tri-Town News for printing the scientific name.)

Wednesday, July 16, 2003

Lucky Michigan

NOAA announced today that it is opening a National Center for Research on Aquatic Invasive Species in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Not to be outdone, Maryland's Smithsonian Environmental Research Center announced a partnership with Australia's CSIRO. As reported in, the two groups will combine their invasive species databases to provide researchers with more complete packages of information on current and potential invasives in marine habitats.

Tuesday, July 15, 2003


"Jumbo shrimp"..."recent history"...and now, "invasive orchid"? SInce late spring I have been watching these lily-like plants that sprouted up all over my yard, in between wood planks, in the lawn, and in plant pots. Finally they flowered, and I was surprised to discover that they are orchids, a species from Europe known as the helleborine (Epipactis helleborine). While already known in most Massachusetts counties, this species is not usually considered invasive, though I'd have to say that it certainly is persistent, and shows the ability to grow in places where other plants can't.

close-up of Epipactis helleborine flowerEpipactis helleborine in flower

Monday, July 14, 2003

Last Call

Today is the deadline for submitting abstracts for the New England Invasive Plant Summit, to be held September 19-20, 2003 in lovely Framingham, MA (insert hometown pride here :-). If you just want to check out the agenda, you can do that here.

Sunday, July 13, 2003

Bloomin' Algae

Newnan's Lake in Florida, long a victim of sedimentation and pollution, is now the victim of an Australian algae, Cylindrospermopsis raciborskii. According to this article in the Gainesville Sun, high concentrations of the blue-green algae (or cyanobacteria) were recorded back in 2000, and the blooms show no sign of waning. Scientists are concerned about the effects of the blooms on the lake's other organisms, and are hoping to ameliorate the situation by identifying sources of phosphorus and other nutrients that allow the algae to thrive. Apparently there are also problems with C. raciborskii in Wisconsin.

Thursday, July 10, 2003

Double Teamed

Hemlocks infested with wooly adelgid (Adelges tsugae) aren't really big news in the world of invasion ecology any more. But then there's this article from the Erie-Times News, describing how the wooly adelgid is teaming up with the elongate hemlock scale (Fiorinia externa) to devastate forests of hemlock (Tsuga canadensis) in the northeastern U.S. The attacks of these two species of sucking insects, combined with recent drought conditions, have led to a strong decline in the number of hemlock trees in the forest. While they have had some luck with biological controls for wooly adelgid, there is as of yet no treatment for elongate hemlock scale.

Tuesday, July 08, 2003

Think Locally, Act Globally

It turns out it's not just state officials that are concerned about burgeoning mute swan (Cygnus olor) populations in the U.S. (see previous blog entry). The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has a plan, currently open to public comment, that seeks to eradicate as much as 85% of the swans in the eastern U.S., in part by allowing states to issue permits to shoot the graceful invasives. Of course there are swan fans and animal rights activists very concerned about this, and you can read some of their points of view, as well as those of state wildlife officials, in this article about swans in my hometown, published in the Metrowest Daily News. If you would like to read the USFWS' draft environmental assessment for mute swan management, go here and click on the link (to a .pdf file). The deadline for comments is July 14th. Also, claims from people interviewed for the article that there was no evidence of the swans being invasive led me to search for and find evidence here and here.

Monday, July 07, 2003

Buy Me!

I was searching for something else today when I accidentally came across these really neat-looking baskets woven from water hyacinth leaves (Eichhornia crassipes). It is likely they were made in Africa, where this aquatic is extremely invasive, rather than in their native South America. Yours for only 40 Brit pounds (67 USD). I never was able to find what I was originally looking for: fake water hyacinth that I saw on display at a local nursery.

Saturday, July 05, 2003

Free Range Beetles

Officials in Minnesota are keeping a watchful eye on the Douglas fir beetle (Dendroctonus pseudotsugae), according to this story from the Duluth News Tribune. The beetles, native to the western U.S., may have arrived in Minnesota in shipments of Douglas fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii). While it remains unclear whether the beetles will have a significant impact on Minnesota forests, this episode has at least caused officials to more closely scrutinize state policies for the importation of wood products.

Friday, July 04, 2003

Uprooting Invasives in Glendale, WI

A group of concerned citizens in Glendale, Wisconsin wants the city to ban non-native invasive plants, including the official city flower, a Japanese yellow day lily. But as reported last month in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the city's in no rush to dig up one million dollars worth of plants like English ivy (Hedera helix), European mountain ash (Sorbus aucuparia) and the aforementioned lilies. A compromise is likely in the works, where non-natives may slowly be replaced with native species, but it may be difficult to find replacements that can tolerate urban habitats and pollution, since before Glendale was there, the city was a prairie.

Thursday, July 03, 2003

Dirty Bird!

Sure, they're graceful, they're fun to feed, and their babies are the cutest things...but they're also nasty poop machines that pollute the water and devour aquatic vegetation. So goes the battle between those who love mute swans (Cygnus olor) and Canada geese (Branta canadensis) and those who wish to preserve native plants and animals, even if it means euthanizing charismatic megafauna. The drama continues in Maryland, where wildlife officials have just gotten permission to resume their reduction of mute swan populations (see previous blog entry), now thought to have expanded to over 14,000 birds. According to this article from the Maryland Sun, animal rights' activists in that state continue to fight the extermination program. In New Jersey, as reported in the New York Times, officials are meeting opposition to their efforts to rid the state of more than 2500 Canada geese, whose presence has significantly reduced park usage by humans. The Hartford Courant is reporting that Connecticut is also getting into the geese-hating act, having just approved a law to allow any homeowners to kill Canada geese if they can prove they have exhausted all efforts to make them go away.

Thanks to members of the ALIENS-L listserver for posting links to these stories.

Wednesday, July 02, 2003

Mussel Mass

As if Florida didn't already have enough to worry about with invasive plants, they have to deal with invertebrates like the Asian green mussel (Perna viridis) as well. According to this article in the Marco Island Eagle, a conference held last week updated scientists in the state concerned about marine and estuarine invasives. The Asian green mussel, thought to have been introduced via ballast and ship fouling, has been known in Florida's coastal waters since 1999, and is considered a threat to the shellfish industry and to seagrass habitats.

Tuesday, July 01, 2003

Slip and Sliders

From The Korea Times comes this report on the invasion of the American red-eared slider turtles (Trachemys scripta elegans) in Korea. The turtles were imported into Korea from the late 1970s until they were banned in 2001. By that time over 6 million of them had been brought in to the country, first as part of a religious ritual (see this previous blog entry for a similar story from Hong Kong) and later as pets. They are now taking over many freshwater habitats, where they consume massive quantities of plant material over their 20-year life span. The article also briefly discusses other invasive species in Korea, the majority of them from America.

Thanks to a member of the ALIENS-L listserver for posting a link to this story. The importation of red-eared sliders is also banned in Europe.