Sunday, November 30, 2003

Vital Vitex

As reported in The Sun News, coastal residents in South Carolina are awaiting word on whether a plant that is showing up on local beaches, known as beach vitex (Vitex rotundifolia), will be categorized as invasive and targeted for removal. Beach vitex, native to Asia and Australia, was introduced to the Carolinas as an ornamental plant back in the 1980s. Scientists are proceeding with a seven step program to determine what to do about the species, though the article implies they are leaning towards removal. Or at least they wouldn't be upset if someone came across one of the plants and pulled it out :-). You can read a past article from another local paper by clicking here.

Saturday, November 29, 2003

Join the Garlic Mustard Patrol

A new item has been added to the ISW store:

garlic mustard patrol black capclose-up of badge detail

Just in time for the holidays, the Garlic Mustard Patrol cap is the second in the "Patrol" series, the first being the popular (translation: I've sold more than one) Purple Loosestrife Patrol cap. I've also posted a closeup of the badge, since the CafePress photos don't show the detail that goes into making these images.

And for those of you lucky enough not to know what garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata) is, click here.

Friday, November 28, 2003

Got the Munchies?

Science News is reporting that populations of the Formosan Subterranean termite (Coptotermes formosanus) have hunkered down in New Orleans' French Quarter, where they are making meals of anything made of wood, from houses to living trees. As a consequence, there's a fair amount of research going on in the area, studying termite behavior and trying to find ways to limit the spread of this species, which was introduced from Asia several decades ago. One such effort is Operation Full Stop, a federal program that supports local-level eradication of the insects, which currently cost the US $1 billion per year (though note that native termites cost us $10 billion annually). This is an excellent article with lots of information and even photos of the termites - well worth the read.

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

Thursday, November 27, 2003

Kills Pets Dead.

It's been just over two years since Australia began its eradication campaign against the red imported fire ant (Solenopsis invicta). Recently, the prime method used against these biting insects, poison bait, is under investigation by the Queensland government, after several homeowners complained that their pets had died. As reported at, the government is denying that the bait could be what caused the deaths of dogs, birds and fish in southeast Queensland. The bait used reportedly needs to be present at a low toxicity, since it works by interrupting the ant's growth cycle, and is meant to be eaten after it's been taken back to the nest. The poisons contained in the bait are S-methoprene and pyriproxyfen (.pdf link), chemicals also found in products such as flea-control collars.

Wednesday, November 26, 2003

New in the Literature

Interesting articles from this month's batch of journals:

Tuesday, November 25, 2003

Heads Up!

As reported at, researchers in Florida are taking a closer look at the history of the introduction of the air potato (Dioscorea bulbifera) to the US, in an effort to find a better way to control the invasive vine. The current method of control is to remove the vines by hand, and to collect all the aerial tubers so they can't fall to the ground and grow into new vines. While the scientists search for a potential biological control, they have discovered an interesting fact about the air potato: it turns out there are in fact two different species of the vine that have been introduced, and molecular testing indicates that they are native to Africa.

Monday, November 24, 2003

Foxes in Boxes

Eastern Australia has begun their largest fox control project ever, according to this brief at ABC Rural. The goal is to eradicate the European fox (Vulpes vulpes), over four years, from 1 million hectares of land. The reason behind the project is interesting: scientists are hoping that reducing fox populations will increase the numbres of native wildlife, and that packs of wild dogs (Canis familiaris dingo, or the "dingo") will focus on these wild natives, rather than the sheep they seem to currently favor (my guess is that they stick with the passive meal). There is a related study that will track the movements of the wild dogs via GPS units attached to collars.

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

Saturday, November 22, 2003

Persecuting the Conifer

For centuries, Britain has been reforesting its depleted woods with conifer species native to places like North America and Australia. All that is about to change. The Guardian is reporting that the Forestry Commission has begun a century-long campaign to rid British forests of many of their conifer trees, and to encourage the growth of native broadleaf tree species, including ash (Fraxinus spp.), beech (Fagus spp.) and maple (Acer spp.). Several of the North American conifers, such as the noble fir (Abies procera) and the lodgepole pine (Pinus contorta), have escaped from cultivation in Britain, as well as in other parts of Europe to which they've been introduced.

Friday, November 21, 2003

In the Mink

The push is on in the UK to eradicate the American mink (Mustela vison) from the islands of Uist and Benbecula, according to this story from The Herald. Fourteen members of the Hebridean Mink Project and other workers will lay over 1000 traps on the two islands, and all minks caught will be destroyed. While animal rights groups protested the move, the government fully supported it; there is strong evidence that the mink is behind the decline and disappearance of several species of ground-nesting birds.

Thursday, November 20, 2003

State of Disaster?

In their quest to save their state's ash trees (Fraxinus spp.), officials in Michigan are considering asking for federal disaster relief funds, according to this article from The Daily Oakland Press. The state has lost almost 6 million trees to the emerald ash borer (Agrilus planipennis) since the beetle was first found there a mere 16 months ago. Their angle: dead ash trees are a threat to public safety because there is a risk that they could fall on people, damage property, etc. Researchers are also looking into other ways to recoup funds used to remove and replace dead trees, including using them as fuel or railroad ties.

Wednesday, November 19, 2003

Cape Invasion

A potentially invasive species of tunicate (Didemnum, poss. D. vexillum) has been discovered in Georges Bank, as reported by NOAA Magazine. The tunicates, which are siphon-feeding marine invertebrates, were first documented in New England waters in the year 2000. Until now, they have apparently only been found in fouling communities, not offshore.

Tuesday, November 18, 2003

Rhodie Roundup

Brits are having a heck of a time dealing with the invasive shrub Rhododendron ponticum, according to this report from BBC News. The ornamental species, introduced from Asia by gardeners back in the 1800s, has spread through woodlands and wetlands, shading out native species with a thick foliage cover. To eradicate the shrubs from a part of Wales where they have invaded, the local Beddgelert Rhododendron Ponticum Management Group estimates it would take 25 years and 5 million pounds (about $8 million US). Bonus points to the BBC for using the scientific names (though the common name of this species is not in wide use).

Monday, November 17, 2003

Amphibious Assault

Frogs are causing more problems, this time on the Galapagos Islands. According to this report from, Scinax quinquefasciata, a tiny tree frog from nearby mainland Ecuador, has been breeding in the Galapagos since 1998. The frogs have no natural predators on the islands, and populations are booming as a result.

Sunday, November 16, 2003

When the lovegrass smiles at me I run from Rio...

Lovegrass (Eragrostis plana) has invaded Brazil, according to this story published by the IPS. Originally introduced in forage crop seed imported from Africa, lovegrass (also known as Capim Annoni) has taken over large swaths of land all over the country. At least part of its success it due to the plant's ability to produce massive amounts of seed, and to discourage competition through allelopathy.

Friday, November 14, 2003

See you later, Alligator

Evidence is mounting that alligators (Alligator mississippiensis)) can transmit West Nile virus (Flavivirus sp.), according to this article from The Idaho Statesman. An Idaho man handled infected baby alligators, shipped from Florida, and later came down with a mild case of the virus. Hundreds of the gators died after arriving at the gator farm where the man works, and the rest of the 1,000 that were imported were later destroyed. While the method of infection is not certain, the man does not remember being bitten by a mosquito, and no West Nile-infected mosquitos have been found within state lines. Someone should lets folks in Louisiana know about this; this story from The Advocate states that alligator-to-human transmission is not possible.

Thursday, November 13, 2003

Frogs in the Blog

The greenhouse frog (Eleutherodactylus planirostris) has been found in Guam, according to this story from the Honolulu Advertiser. Why is a Hawaiian newspaper reporting about Guam? The greenhouse frog is a great source of food for the dreaded brown tree snake (Boiga irregularis), which Hawaiian officials are desperate to keep out of their state. More food means more snakes, making the chances of an accidental introduction even greater. Unfortunately, the greenhouse frogs are quiet, and a lot harder to track down than the other frog species making its way around island ecosystems, the coqui (E. coqui).

Wednesday, November 12, 2003

New in Print

In the literature this month:

Monday, November 10, 2003

The Breeders

According to this article from the Statesman Journal, researchers are finding more young European green crabs (Carcinus maenas) this year than ever before off the coast of Washington and Oregon. The crabs have been known in the area since the 1980s, but haven't garnered a lot of attention (translation: funding) because they were not causing significant problems. Now that evidence suggests there are well-established breeding populations, there is concern that a population explosion could be just over the horizon. The article notes that it took the green crab a century to become established on the east coast of the U.S. They certainly make up the majority of crab shells I have seen along Boston Harbor (G-R-E-E-N...G-R-E-E-N...).

Sunday, November 09, 2003

It's not easy staying green

If you live in the northern U.S. and are surprised to be seeing green foliage this time of year, you're not alone. As described in this well-written article in the Pocono Record, the majority of the green you're seeing is non-native; plants from other parts of the world out of sync with your local seasons. So that maple tree that's been holding on to its leaves through November is likely a Norway maple (Acer platanoides), and those shrubby, spindly trees with the round leaves along your local river are probably buckthorn (Rhamnus spp.). In fact, it's a great time of year to get out there and identify invasive plants...if it's not too cold for you :-).

Saturday, November 08, 2003

Cold-hearted snake

Members of the U.S. House of Representatives from Hawaii and Guam have banded together in an effort to secure federal funding to eradicate the brown tree snake (Boiga irregularis) from Guam, and keep it from ever entering Hawaii or Saipan, according to this article in the Pacific Business News. Congresswoman Madeleine Bordallo and Representatives Neil Abercrombie and Ed Case are co-sponsoring a bill that would provide $18 million to fund the projects. This is not the first time Abercrombie has sought funding for this type of project, though I am not sure if he was successful. (Bonus points to the Pacific Business News for using the snake's scientific name.)

Thursday, November 06, 2003

Building Mussels

The state of Virginia was all "gung ho" about eradicating zebra mussels (Dreissena polymorpha) from the Milbrook Quarry...until they ran out of money. According to this article from The Virginian-Pilot, Wilson J. Browning, the businessman who was contracted to kill the invasive mussels, was informed that budget constraints prevented the state from funding the project. Browning actually invented the eradication technology, which involves cycling all the water in the quarry (200 million gallons!) through pumps that remove the oxygen from the water. He and another researcher have also recommended a similar technique (link to .pdf file) to treat ballast water. The state is continuing to look into funding options in the hopes of continuing with their project.

Wednesday, November 05, 2003

Somewhere, a koala bear is shaking its head in disgust

There's a grove in Claremont Canyon, California that was cleared of trees about a month ago, yet environmentalists are cheering? That's the gist of this article from the Contra Costa Times, which describes the happiness felt by all as loggers came in to clear 12 acres of invasive eucaplytus trees, some them as much as 80 feet tall. The native habitat was always much more open than the crowded understory created by densely clustered eucalyptus, so scientists are expecting native species to recover now that the land has been cleared.

Tuesday, November 04, 2003

America Discovers Columbus

Last week, The Columbus Dispatch published a four-day series of invasive species articles, including species profiles, economic impact reports, and even an editorial cartoon. It's a comprehensive special report, where you can learn more about everything from the devastation of the emerald ash borer beetle (Agrilus planipennis) to the search for a market for bighead carp (Hypophthalmichthys nobilis) foodstuffs. Bonus points to the Dispatch for using scientific names.

Thanks to a member of the Yahoo! group ma-eppc for posting a link to the report.

Monday, November 03, 2003


State, local, and federal officials meeting in Arizona have resigned themselves to the fact that giant salvinia (Salvinia molesta) has become a permanent resident of the Lower Colorado River, according to this story on The aquatic weed, which was first found in the river in 1999, has now spread south into Mexico, perhaps slightly ironic, as its native habitat is Brazil. In an attempt to control the weed, scientists are now testing the effectiveness of Cyrtobagous salviniae, a weevil biocontrol, and are educating the public about the benefits of cleaning their boating equipment to avoid spreading invasive plants.

Saturday, November 01, 2003

Earthworms are easy

Seems like non-native earthworms are getting a lot of attention in the American media lately. While I reported earlier this week that Asian earthworms have drawn attention to themselves in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Work in Progress blog noted a major New York Times article on the subject, and has been following other earthworm-related news stories.