Friday, August 29, 2003

Monky See, Monky Do

Monk parakeets (Myiopsitta monachus) have arrived in Barcelona, Spain, and as reported in this article from BBC News, they're definitely making their presence known. Native to South America, the cute green birds (also known as Quaker parrots) are kept as pets by bird-lovers all over the world. Unfortunately, many have escaped or have been released, and in the areas where they've become established, they cause problems by eating anything green they can get their beak in. In Spain, this has meant the loss of tomato crops and a decline in native bird populations.

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

Thursday, August 28, 2003

New in Print

Recent journal articles about invasive species (most links are to abstracts):

Wednesday, August 27, 2003

Bucket Biology

There seems to be a bit of a split in the sport fishing community, between those concerned with depleting stocks of native fish and preventing new introductions, and those that just want to fish and are happy to let the government continue to stock bodies of water with species like the northern pike (Esox lucius). In Maine, angler Bob Mallard recently published this piece in the Kennebec Journal, addressing the DIF&W's policy of managing illegally introduced fish species in major bodies of water. Bob also has a forum at the website for his store, Kennebec River Outfitters, where you can find a lot of posts from anglers with similar concerns. You can also read Bob's recent article in the Northwoods Sporting Journal. By the way, "Bucket Biology" refers to the illegal introduction of species into bodies of water by transporting them in a bucket.

Tuesday, August 26, 2003

Lobate Probate

I just recently discovered Jack Rodgers's web site that he created to publicize the effects of lobate lac scale (Paratachardina lobata lobata) in Florida. The site is chock full of information, including many, many photos. Well worth a look.

Monday, August 25, 2003

Wattle Lotta Wattle

This article from Radio Nederland describes the problems South Africa is having with the black wattle tree (Acacia mearnsii). Black wattle, native to Australia, was introduced to South Africa over a century ago for its bark, which can be used for tanning, and is also valued as a timber tree. Unfortunately, the trees have naturalized, and now cause problems due to their high demand for water. The article also has a link to the radio broadcast of this story, featured on the show "Research File."

Friday, August 22, 2003

Re: Stop dumping your unwanted pets!

A two-foot long alligator (Alligator sp.) was found in Jamaica Pond, located in Boston, Massachusetts. As reported at (and by every other news source in Massachusetts), disbelieving Animal Rescue League workers arrived at the pond after receiving several reports, and were surprised to see the gator swimming around in the water. The alligator has already been caught (luckily one of the workers was from Louisiana :-) and the workers stated that it would not be euthanized. Alligators are illegal to own in Massachusetts without a license, and even them may only be kept for "scientific, research, display or educational purposes."

Thursday, August 21, 2003

Best Headline Ever! (so far)

The headline of this article from The Baltimore Sun says it all: "Goldfish become occupying force." Seems hundreds of goldfish (Cyprinus auratus), along with a few big koi (Cyprinus carpio) have taken over a pond in Columbia, Maryland, leading to a distinct lack of amphibians in the area. One "solution" being considered is to stock the pond with bass, who will eat the goldfish, and bluegills, to eat insects and provide an additional food source for the bass (!!), and then keep the bass under control by allowing fishing. Another possible solution: Stop dumping your unwanted pets!

Wednesday, August 20, 2003

Farm Fresh

The state Supreme Court of South Dakota ruled this week that a couple can go ahead with their lawsuit against a neighbor that they say is causing their horse farm to be taken over by weeds. According to this article from Aberdeen News, the judge agreed that the neighboring landowner had "a duty to exercise ordinary care." The weed in question here is kochia (Kochia scoparia), which can be a major invasive on agricultural land, but is not regulated in South Dakota. The fact that the judge considered the neighbor negligent suggests that there is more to this story than is revealed in the article, so it's probably not time to start worrying about getting sued if an invasive plant pops up on your own property once in a while. Ironically, kochia is recommended by some as a drought-resistant forage crop.

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

Tuesday, August 19, 2003

Weed Haters Gone Wild!!!!

Registration is now open for the 7th EMAPi conference, to be held in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, November 3-8. Actually, the full title of this event is quite a mouthful: "Invasive Plants in Natural and Managed Systems: Linking Science and Management and International Conference on the Ecology and Management of Alien Plant Invasions." Register by September 15th to get the early-bird discount ($190). Students can get their registration fee refunded by volunteering their time, details are here. The preliminary program looks very interesting (though is anyone taking bets on whether or not Gale Norton will show up?).

Monday, August 18, 2003

Mosquitos Bite

With all the press about the Asian tiger mosquito (Aedes albopictus) being found in the U.S., little attention has been given to its distant cousin, the Asian bush mosquito (Ochlerotatus japonicus). Turns out O. japonicus has been in the U.S. since at least 1999, the year it was first found in the southeast. Now, as reported at, the mosquito has been found as far north as North Carolina. While much more likely to carry West Nile virus, this species is a much less aggressive biter.

Thanks to Dave Barry's blog for posting a link to this story.

Saturday, August 16, 2003

Buyers Beware

This article from the Bonita Daily News describes the problems Florida has trying to deal with the purchase and sale of invasive plants over the internet. Internet sales, especially via auction sites, can be tricky, since a species can usually be sold in some states while completely banned in others. The example given in the article is water hyacinth (Eichhornia crassipes), a popular aquatic species which is illegal to possess in Florida. There will always be some sellers that are more cautious than others, but I have to wonder, how many states would a species have to be banned in before someone says "Hmm, maybe I shouldn't be selling this at all anymore"?

Friday, August 15, 2003

Cape Town Crusaders

If you're in the area of Cape Town next week, you'll want to stop by the Inaugural Research Symposium of the Working for Water Program. As reported by BuaNews, researchers from several African countries will meet to discuss various aspects of dealing with invasive species. You can learn more about Working for Water (the organization behind the infamous Weedbuster comics) by clicking here.

Wednesday, August 13, 2003

"Tree from Hell"

Scientists think they have found a tool to help stave off the invasion of the annoying and malodorous tree of heaven (Ailanthus altissima), according to this article on A fusarium fungus (Fusarium oxysporum) was observed killing the trees in Virginia, and is now being studied to determine how humans can get it to infect any individual tree. Though researchers have had little luck so far, there are high hopes that the fusarium fungus will be the answer to controlling the "tree from hell," a major component of urban and other disturbed habitats in the U.S., known for its ability to damage pipework and building foundations with its rapidly expanding root system.

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

Tuesday, August 12, 2003

Polly want a gunshot wound?

From a single pair of mitered conures (Aratinga mitrata) released on the Hawaiian island of Maui in the 1980s has come 200 offspring threatening crops and forest land. Now, according to this article from News 8 NBC Hawaii, officials are looking into a surveying and control plan, with the intent of removing the parrots from the area. They say they are considering shooting them or netting them, but it's not clear what they would do with 200 netted parrots besides euthanize them. Those interested in this topic may also want to check out the home page of the Maui Invasive Species Committee.

Sunday, August 10, 2003

Survey Says:

There's a team of researchers surveying marine habitats across the Northeastern U.S., and they don't like what they're seeing. According to this article from the Boston Globe, they're not only finding many non-native marine organisms, but they're finding ones new to the area since the last Northeast Rapid Assessment Survey was done just a few years ago. You can find out more about invasive marine species, and see maps from the last Rapid Assessment Survey, by clicking here.

Thursday, August 07, 2003

Gee, maybe we should cultivate this

On a walk today in a fairly natural area, I came across this oddity in a large patch of Asiatic bittersweet (Celastrus orbiculatus):

Variegated Celastrus

close-up of variegated Celastrus leaf

Just a single variegated stem, the only one in the patch, or any other patch at the site. I'm not saying where it was - I've had enough requests for Japanese knotweed cultivars to know better.

Wednesday, August 06, 2003

A Thousand (plus) Points of Blight

The Alien Plant Working Group recently updated their list of Alien Plant Invaders of Natural Areas. There are now over 1000 species on the list. If you check out the site, you'll notice that while there several species have fact sheets, there are many many more looking for volunteers to write them. So if you know a species on the list, step up! :-)

Tuesday, August 05, 2003

Skeeter Scare

The Health Protection Agency in the UK is on high alert after finding evidence that the Asian tiger mosquito (Aedes albopictus) has already entered the country, as reported on the BBC's website.. The mosquitos can carry dengue fever and West Nile virus, among other ailments, making officials extra vigilant about preventing the spread of this insect species. You can read more on the British mosquito invasion in this article from Femail.

Monday, August 04, 2003

Soylent Rust

Soybean farmers in the U.S. are warily eyeing reports of soybean rust (Phakopsora pachyrhizi) from South America, according to this report from the Iowa Farm Bureau. The disease, caused by a fungus, has decimated crops in Brazil, and is expected to arrive in the continental U.S. within the next seven years. Soybean rust is expensive to control, and is enough of a threat to have attracted the attention of the USDA, the United Soybean Board, and the Department of Homeland Security, which has granted $1 million to study this "potential terrorism threat."

Sunday, August 03, 2003

"It was nice to see them dead."

Biologists in Minnesota are at a loss to explain why zebra mussels (Dreissena polymorpha) are dying off in a portion of the Upper Mississippi River known as "Pool 8." As reported in this article from Wisconsin's LaCrosse Tribune, divers found piles of empty zebra mussel shells when doing a check of native mussel beds. There are now portions of the Upper Mississippi that have virtually no adults left, and populations have yet to rebound. While parasitic infection and low food supply are potential explanations, neither would be expected to cause such a significant and rapid population decrease.

Friday, August 01, 2003

Boring Ahead

Illinois is on the lookout for the emerald ash borer (Agrilus planipennis), according to this article in the Daily Herald. While government researchers and officials are hoping the invasive, wood-boring beetle never arrives in that state, they are proactively preparing for the possibility by meeting this past week to set up a rapid response plan. You can read previously blog entries about the ash borer's appearance in Michigan by clicking here.