Friday, May 30, 2003

Rudd Reign

The European rudd (Scardinius erythrophthalmus) has been found in Lake Erie, according to this article from Two fish were recently discovered by biologists sampling waters in Presque Isle Bay for brown bullhead (Ameiurus nebulosus). While this is the first time the species has been spotted in near Pennsylvania, it has been known in Lake Erie and Lake Ontario since the late 1990s.

Tuesday, May 27, 2003

Meal Worms

Government researchers in the Philippines have come up with a unique solution to the problem of earthworms destroying the ancient man-made Banaue Rice Terraces: make them into food. According to this article from, scientists are looking into the possibility of harvesting the worms and processing them into "vermimeal" which can then be fed to animals. The worms burrow through the walls of rice paddies, causing terraces to weaken and collapse. Scientists are still working to identify the worm species, two of which have been confirmed as alien.

Monday, May 26, 2003

Take this with a grain of salt

Residents near Capitol Lake in Washington that are squeamish about using herbicides to control the invasive aquatic plant Eurasian milfoil (Myriophyllum spicatum) have thrown their support behind a plan to flood the lake with saltwater instead. According to this story from The Olympian, a flood gate would be opened at high tide, allowing salt water from Budd Inlet to flow in. At first glance, saltwater seems like a safe alternative to the herbicide fluridone, at least for humans. But consider that while fluridone has been said to have minimal impact on non-target species, the influx of inlet saltwater will affect much of the flora and fauna in the lake, can lower available oxygen in the water, and can raise nutrient levels, causing additional problems including algal blooms.

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

Sunday, May 25, 2003

Swans: regal birds of beauty, or nasty invasive species?

The debate over mute swans (Cygnus olor) continues, having now spread to Massachusetts. As reported in today's Boston Globe, some residents of Plum Island were alarmed to discover that for the past twelve years, workers in the wildlife sanctuary regularly "thin the ranks" of swans to keep them from scaring off native birds and consuming massive quantities of aquatic plants. At issue is exactly which creatures deserve the "Refuge" in Parker River National Wildlife Refuge. If you don't feel like reading the whole article, at least have a look at the resident quotes at the bottom of the page. You can also read about the mute swan hysteria in Maryland by clicking over to this previous blog entry.

Saturday, May 24, 2003

You mean they didn't have one already?

According to this report in the Pacific Business News, officials in Hawaii are finally taking steps to create an Invasive Species Council. The council will be made up of members of various branches of the state government (original press release can be found here). Not sure what happened to the "temporary" council described here, perhaps it disappeared with the last governor's administration.

Friday, May 23, 2003

Living High on the Hogweed

Just in case you'd forgotten about last year's hogweed hysteria, officials in Connecticut are speaking up in this article in the Norwich Bulletin to remind you that the threat of invasion still exists. With its distinctive giant foliage and umbrella-like inflorescences, giant hogweed (Heracleum mantegazzianum) should be easy to spot (look, but don't touch!). If you want to know more about the species, or if you live in Connecticut and would like to report a sighting, visit this page.

Thursday, May 22, 2003

Insert Reporting Protocol Here

Argentine ants (Linepithema humile) have invaded Rotorua, New Zealand, according to this article from Stuff NZ. The species has been spreading in New Zealand since the 1990's - what makes this story newsworthy is the fact that the ants have been there for two years, but the animal pest coordinator for the Bay of Plenty regional council (apparently responsible for handling such situations), did not find out about the infestation until last week. The ants would normally be dormant during the winter but have remained active in places like Rotorua that are located near geothermal hotspots.

Tuesday, May 20, 2003

Maine Event

Maine is so frustrated with the spread of hydrilla (Hydrilla verticillata) in Limerick's Pickerel Pond that they're considering dousing the pond with the herbicide fluridone. They expect it will reduce pond vegetation by about 95%, but this doesn't seem so bad when compared to the alternative situation, where the hydrilla ends up wiping out all pond life. Read more about it in this article from the Press Herald.

(Off to a conference in Bar Harbor, blog entries will recommence in a few days)

Saturday, May 17, 2003

New in Knotweed

The June 2003 issue of the journal Molecular Ecology has this article (link to abstract) about Japanese knotweed (Fallopia japonica). The authors used microsatellites to analyze populations of the invasive plant in its native range on Mt. Fuji, and demonstrated that populations are made up of both clonal plants and seedlings. Also, while pollen tends to disperse quite far from the parent plant, seeds do not disperse far from their mothers, leading to very low levels of subpopulation genetic variation.

Friday, May 16, 2003

Moth Mania
image of winter moth

Last December I observed a massive moth invasion in my hometown of Randolph, Massachusetts. There were thousands of moths swarming all over the place, so I grabbed one and took some photos. Now comes this story from, about the sudden invasion of inchworms defoliating the trees. It turns out these are likely the offspring of the same European winter moths (Operophtera brumata), though the species can be confused with the fall cankerworm (Alsophila pometaria). The distinct fringes along the wings and the fact that I caught this moth in December make me think that the photo above is the winter moth, but I can't be sure. You can read more about the moths and the expected extent of invasion here.

Thursday, May 15, 2003


In 2002 Ted Gesing completed a short film called "Nutria," the story of Louisiana's love/hate relationship with an invasive South American swamp rat (Myocastor coypus). The film has been showing at various film festivals, and the SXSW (South by Southwest) festival was kind enough to post a hilarious clip of famous chef Philippe Parola serving up nutria gumbo at a convention.

Tuesday, May 13, 2003

Beetle Hunt

Scientists at Cornell University are on the lookout for the viburnum leaf beetle (Pyrrhalta viburni), and they want your help. According to this article in The Ithaca Journal, volunteers have been enlisted to find the insects and then report back on when the eggs hatch and how much damage is caused to the viburnums. So far volunteers have signed up from several northeastern states. If you're interested in submitting information, you can find more information here.

Monday, May 12, 2003

Woad is me

Today is the first day of what will hopefully not become an annual event: The Weber County, Utah "Bag O' Woad" Program. According to this report from KSL TV, Weber County is offering $10 per bag of the plant known as dyer's woad (Isatis tinctoria). You have to be between the ages of 6 and 16 to pick up a bag to fill, and I'm sure the bags will go fast...what youngster would want to miss out on such a fulfilling experience as pulling weeds? :-) The program was also the subject of an entry in the ISW last spring.

Sunday, May 11, 2003

Fly By

This week's Dave Barry column (or last week's, depending on where you live) was a humourous take on his encounters with imported red fire ants (Solenopsis invicta). Dave recently met with researchers in Florida that are working with the decapitating phorid fly (Pseudacteon tricuspis), a biocontrol agent that uses the ants as incubators (and food) for its offspring. Don't forget to read the cute related comic in the top right corner of the page.

Saturday, May 10, 2003

Herbal Error

I was at an herb sale yesterday and noticed several specimens of Moneywort (Lysimachia nummularia) for sale. Also known as creeping Jenny, this wetland plant is listed as invasive or potentially invasive in many northeastern states as well as Canada. It is often planted as a ground cover but can easily spread beyond its intended patch of land. If you're interested in growing plants to create your own wound remedies (the main herbal use for moneywort), consider some of these alternatives, or keep plants indoors or in pots, and always dispose of cuttings and seed in an environmentally conscious way.

Friday, May 09, 2003

Swan Song

According to this report from the Bay Journal, natural resource officials in Maryland have begun the process of shooting 1500 mute swans (Cygnus olor), in an effort to protect grassbeds and native species in the Chesapeake Bay. When they're done, swan populations in that state will be reduced by about 50%. The number of mute swans in Maryland has continued to rise, even though there has been an egg addling program in that state for years. In response to the killings, the international animal rights group "Friends of Animals" is offering up to $1000 to anyone who can catch the shootings on video tape, as reported in the Washington Post. The group hopes to stop the population reduction program by broadcasting the tape to the world.

(Note 5/25/03: Animal rights supporters have now filed a lawsuit in federal court to protest the swan killings, read more in this story from the Environment News Service. - Thanks to a member of the ALIENS-L listserver for posting the link)

Thursday, May 08, 2003

Green with Ivy

May 3rd was "kNOw Ivy Day" in Portland, Oregon, a city known for its hatred of English ivy (Hedera helix). According to a report from The Oregonian, this is "the world's largest English ivy removal project."

Thanks to the Stop Aquatic Hitchhikers site for linking to this story.

Wednesday, May 07, 2003

Waste not, want not

As officials in Florida search for the cause of the massive algal blooms of Caulerpa brachypus appearing in coastal waters, attention has turned to the deep injection wells used to dispose of treated wastewater. According to this report from The Stuart News, Martin County's County Commissioner expressed concern that nutrients from the wells could be seeping into the lagoons and contributing to the algal growth. There's talk of banning the wells, but it is likely further studies will be done before making such a drastic decision.

Tuesday, May 06, 2003

West Virginia is for Weed Lovers?

A while back I mentioned that the Union of Concerned Scientists published a report on invasive species in Texas. They have actually been working on projects for several different states, and recently released this report for West Virginia, as well as this report for the same state but focusing on aquatic invasives (both files are in .pdf format). Almost a third of all plant species in West Virginia are non-native.

Monday, May 05, 2003

Let it slide

The Wildland Invasive Species Team of The Nature Conservancy has put together a nice Powerpoint presentation titled "Understanding the Impacts of Invasive Plants in Natural Areas." They encourage you to preview the Powerpoint file, and then download it for use in your own presentations. Helpful comments accompany the dozens of nice photos of invasve plants that are included, along with graphs and bullet lists.

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

Sunday, May 04, 2003


In all fairness, I must post this link - a reply to a scathing editorial published in The Barbados Advocate. The original piece, written by the president of the Barbados Herpetological Society, was the subject of in a previous ISW entry. The rebuttal brings up several points about the non-native species in question and whether these pets would truly pose a threat to the environment if they escape.

Friday, May 02, 2003

Bitter is Better

Foresters in Montana have banded together to come up with a plan to contain invasive plants in Bitterroot National Forest, and hopefully prevent them from spreading into nearby Big Hole Valley, according to this story in the the Missoula Independent. You can read the details of their plan on the Noxious Weed Treatment Project web site (files are in Adobe Acrobat format).

Thursday, May 01, 2003

Gene Whiz

One way to get an up-to-date view of molecular research on invasive species is by using NCBI's Entrez retrieval system. Any new DNA or amino acid sequences are required to be submitted to GenBank, and searching it is a great way to keep up on current work. This April, nucleotide sequences were submitted for many invasives, including tree of heaven (AIlanthus altissima), purple loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria), and the Chinese mitten crab (Eriocheir sinensis). (To limit your search by date, click on the "Limits" tab.)