Thursday, September 30, 2004


According to this story from National Geographic, North American bullfrogs (Rana catesbeiana) are taking over the world. Ok, that's not exactly what they are saying, but the article does point out that these amphibians have established and increasing populations on several other continents. And that's not good for the native frogs or for the insects and other creatures that make up the bullfrog's diet.

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Annie, Get Your Gun

If you've been looking to do some community service on a beautiful tropical island, and you have your own rifle, this may be perfect for you: Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is looking for volunteers to help cull feral Mouflon sheep (Ovis musimon) from a newly purchased tract of land on Hawai`i Island. As reported at, the project is expected to go on indefinitely, and there is no limit to the number of sheep you can take. The sheep were brought to the Kahuku Ranch for hunting back in the 1960's, and their population now numbers in the thousands.

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Population Overflow

Floods in North Carolina caused by the recent barrage of rain-soaked hurricane remnants may have led to accidental releases of sterile grass carp (Ctenopharyngodon idella). As reported by The Charlotte Observer, some of the fish, used in lakes to control the aquatic invasive plant hydrilla (Hydrilla verticillata), are likely to have taken the opportunity to head downstream when high water levels made their escape from the lakes possible. Interestingly, the focus of this story is more on the fact that the fish are an expensive loss, rather than what dozens of hungry carp are going to eat once they find themselves in a river that is hydrilla-free.

Monday, September 27, 2004

Neighborhood Watch

Interesting idea in New Zealand: according to this report from Scoop, surveilance in urban areas is a great way to discover new invasive insects. Seems urban and suburban areas often harbor "sleeper cells" of non-native insects that have become locally established but are not yet widespread. Garden pests, for example, are frequently non-native. Scientists are interested in setting up a standardized monitoring program to catch the alien bugs before they become serious pests.

Sunday, September 26, 2004

Invasive Species: The Newest Threat to Property...Rights? has yet another diatribe about the threat to property rights caused by invasive species science. In this version, Peyton Knight talks about how the current version of the Senate's Federal Transportation Bill (S. 1072) has a provision to allow the government to manage private property if it is shown to have an invasive plant on it. Normally the ISW presents stories without bias (other than the occasional snarky comment), but here are some issues I have with this opinion piece:

  • Invasive species, indeed any weedy species, don't give a hoot about your property boundaries. Sometimes things that happen on your property affect others, and it's not fair to say tough luck just because you own that plot of land. I'm sorry, but if someone notices that a bunch of trees on your property are infested with Asian longhorn beetles, I don't think you have a right to not do anything about it. I also don't think you should have to pay to remove the trees, and I would like to see the government help you out by maybe replanting or giving you some money. But unless you're going to build a biodome over your land, this is about more than you and what you "own."
  • I own a house, I have a yard, and I pull up weeds, even if they're native, to clean my flower beds. I'm not stupid enough to think humans can convert 100% of our land back into pristine habitat for native flora and fauna. And neither is the government. It's crazy to think that their goal is to eliminate all non-native species, or that Senators are trying to sneak this law through under the radar so they can redefine "invasive" however they please. Do you know how long it took them to arrive at this official definition?
  • I do not consider myself a "radical Green" or "international socialist," but I would like to tell all property rights' advocates that I do not want to control your land. I do not even claim to know how to control your land. What I would prefer is that you take the time to properly manage your own land, keeping in mind that it might be nice to share some of it with the native creatures that used to live there before you built your house/condo complex/strip mall. So maybe the next generation won't grow up knowing flowers from the print on your dish towels. Just my own ecologically-slanted a-bit-heavy-on-the-melodrama thoughts.
I welcome property rights advocates to politely comment below, I am honestly interested in hearing your views.

For more background on this issue, check out previous ISW posts about Jim Beers, or do a general search for property rights.

Saturday, September 25, 2004

Planting Bulbuls

According to this report from The Maui News, there is some concern that the red-vented bulbul is invading the island of Molokai. The bulbul, a bird native to Pakistan, India and Vietnam, dines on a wide range of delicacies, from papayas to flower nectar to insects, making it a potential threat to native species as well as to farmers. This species is on Hawaii's Injurious Species List (.pdf), making it illegal to transport it to any island, though populations have been in Oahu since the 1950's. Bonus points to Maui News for using the bird's scientific name.

Friday, September 24, 2004

New in the Literature

Recently published journal articles:

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Say That Three Times Fast

Habitattitude...Habitatitude...Habitattitatitude...A newly trademarked name brought to you by that large but relatively unknown creature known as the "government-industry coalition," which in this case includes PIJAC, USFWS and NOAA. How do I acquire a "Habitattitude (TM)," you ask? One way would be to blend the words habitat and attitude, both of which I think are trademark-free. Another way, according to the site, would be to "Adopt a conservation mentality." and to "Protect our environment by not releasing unwanted fish and aquatic plants."

Here's some more about the program:

"HabitattitudeTM is about consumer awareness and responsible behaviors. By drawing attention to the potential environmental ramifications of the aquarium and water garden hobbies while promoting responsible consumer behaviors, HabitattitudeTM avoids the definition debate surrounding "invasive species." Ultimately, the campaign seeks to eliminate the transfer and survival of any species outside of your enclosed, artificial system, which has the potential to cause the loss or decline of native plants and animals."

Not sure I know many water gardens that I'd consider enclosed systems, but maybe this program could work...if they could somehow get everyone to be informed and compliant.

Those that are interested can read the press release here.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Weed InFoamation

The Register-Guard has this story about Oregon's testing of an innovative new weed-killing system. Called "Waipuna," the system takes a concoction made up of hot water and a corn/coconut sugar extract, and sprays it on plants as a hot foam. The foam insulates its weedy victims in a 200+ degree F blanket, shocking the plant's cells and usually killing it within four hours. The Bureau of Land Management is testing the Waipuna system on several different invasive plants, both herbs and vines.

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

(Not) Just Around the Bentgrass

Back in January of this year there was an ISW entry about a genetically engineered cultivar of creeping bentgrass (Agrostis stolonifera) that is herbicide-resistant. Now comes word from BBC News that pollen from this GEO can travel as much as 13 miles away from the parent plants. In an upcoming journal article, scientists describe the pollen flow and the discovery of transgenic seed in wild plants located several miles from test plots. This is probably not good news for the chemical companies.

Monday, September 20, 2004

Fish and Games

Twenty years ago, voters in Oregon approved the creation of the Devils Lake Water Improvement District, with the goal of restoring health to Devils Lake. That lake later become the first body of water in Oregon where triploid grass carp (Ctenopharyngodon idella) were introduced to control aquatic weeds. As reported by the Newport News Times, this past month the Oregon Bass and Panfish Club petitioned the Oregon Fish and Game Commission to add the carp to their list of acceptable sport fish to catch at the lake. Apparently the carp are doing too good of a job, and the lake has not been able to reach a "balance of vegetation." DLWID board members recognized that they need a better, more complex plan to manage the lake ecosystem, and have pledged to work with the state Department of Fish & Wildlife. In the meantime, they were pleased that the F&GC recently rejected the carp-catching proposal.

Sunday, September 19, 2004


If you have a problem with invasive plant propagules clinging onto your clothing, you may want to check out BurzOff, a tool designed specifically to remove burrs, beggarticks, and other spiny seeds and fruits. It's made from 90% post-consumer recycled materials, and looks kind of like a pumice stone.

Actually, all the burry, spiny things I can think of that cling to my boots and jeans here in Massachusetts are native. But if you're in a part of the world where you're dealing with lots of thistles and grasses, you may find this useful (could have used this for the legumes in the Costa Rican pastures!). If you are already sold, you can get one for $8 + $4 S/H. Read the original press release here.

Saturday, September 18, 2004

Of Course, Of Course, Of Course!

The fall course catalog is out from the New England Wildflower Society's Garden in the Woods. I'll be giving 3 lectures about invasive plants, sign up for one or select all three and save $$$! There will be one each month, starting in October with BOT5120 (Vectors of Invasion—Past, Present and Future), November with BOT5121 (American Invaders—The Reverse Invasion), and finishing off in December with BOT5122 (Alien Law). I'll also be leading an Invasive Weeds in Winter field trip in January 2005. Other interesting courses being offered at GITW this fall include two by Chris Mattrick, a lecture in September about Alternatives to Invasive Plants, and then an October trip about Identification and Control of Invasive Plants. Josh Ellsworth will also be teaching an all-day course in November about Invasive Plant Control and Restoration.

Friday, September 17, 2004

Hear and Then

Fifty years ago, Edward Hosaka and the appropriately named Alan Thistle authored a book titles "Noxious plants of the Hawaiian ranges." In honor of the half-century anniversary of the book's publication, the Hawaiian Ecosystems at Risk (HEAR) website has put the entire book online for free! It lends an interesting historical perspective to the invasive species issues in that state, and mentions several well-known weeds, including gorse (Ulex europeus) and lantana (Lantana camara). If you're interested, head over to this page, where you can choose from the full, large .pdf version, a "lite" .pdf, or just the text in .rtf format.

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

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Local Invasive Tidbits

Stories about invasive species from neighborhoods around the world:

  • The Vilas County News-Review has this report about property owners given a grant to fight invasive aquatic plants in Little St. Germain Lake, Wisconsin.
  • The Asbury Park Press has a story about a temporary compromise between the Township of Barnegat, NJ and a group caring for a feral cat colony. (Thanks to Val C. for sending the link)
  • The Courier-Mail has this story about the efforts of Brisbane, Australia's City Council to assess problems caused by the spread of the introduced common myna bird (Acridotheres tristis).

Monday, September 13, 2004

Expensive Sticker Collection

When I was little, I had a sticker collection (okay, I still have it). Even now I doubt anything in my collection is worth as much as this: image of decal Michigan is using this decal as part of a program to raise funds to fight invasive species in the Great Lakes. Unfortunately, it's only 3 inches square, yet costs $35. And yes, you still have to register your boat - this sticker is decorative only. Guess I won't be adding one to my collection any time soon. Read the press release here.

Saturday, September 11, 2004

Unlucky Loosestrife

A couple of weeks ago I had the opportunity to visit a site where they're testing the effectiveness of the galerucella beetle (Galerucella calmariensis) as a biocontrol for purple loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria). Noted entomologist Fred SaintOurs agreed to let me travel with him to the site, a wetland in Lexington, MA (little did I know it was just an excuse to get some volunteer work out of me! - just kidding Fred). The Purple Loosestrife Bio-control Monitoring Project has been going on in Massachusetts for several years; the beetles were released at the Lexington site in fall 2002. My visit was late in the season, so there were no beetles around, but I did see a lot of leaf damage, as shown in the photo below: photo of leaf damage on purple loosestrife

Fred noted that there were a few plots where very little purple loosestrife was left. There were also plots where the native cattails were rebounding, though as you can see in this photo, there was still some loosestrife to be reckoned with. Until this trip I had no idea purple loosestrife could be so tall: photo o Fred and loosestrife and cattails in a plot

Thursday, September 09, 2004

Monet Would Approve

The July application of herbicide to Michigan's Kawkawlin River appears to have been successful in removing infestations of curly-leaved pondweed (Potemogeton crispus) and Eurasian watermilfoil (Myriophyllum spicatum). But as reported by The Bay City Times, property owners in the area aren't happy. The reason? Parts of the river are now filled to the brim with water lilies, happy to take up the space vacated by the non-native aquatic plants. The article does not mention what the species is, but does note that it is native. The Kawkawlin River Watershed Property Owners Association is considering its options, including another round with herbicide. Property owners are allowed to remove the lilies in front of their homes by hand, but must apply for a permit to treat the river with chemicals.

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Just the Flax, M'am

Two weed-pullers have sailed to the appropriately named "Inaccessible Island" to clear invasive plants from the most unlikely and awkward of places. As reported by, the workers have to traverse a nearly vertical rock cliff to remove patches of New Zealand flax plants (Phormium tenax). A rapid increase in the rate of spread of the introduced populations over the past decade is what brought attention to the problem. The flax, originally introduced from New Zealand, likely spread from the two other islands in the Tristan da Cunha group, as all three were colonized by humans.

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Too Far Gone

Colorado's given up when it comes to weeds...sort of. According to researchers, more than 75% of the invasive plants in that state are already so well established that there is no chance to eradicate them. So, says the state, why waste the money? That may be why lawmakers have skipped over the weed management fund for the past two years when determining the state's budget. Read the full story in the Denver Post.

Monday, September 06, 2004

Labor Day at the Lake

Forget those old "Don't Drink and Drive" messages you hear every Labor Day, this year in Wisconsin they tried something new. As reported in the Duluth News Tribune, volunteers brought together by the state's Clean Boats, Clean Waters (.pdf) program spent the day at boat landings, inspecting boats for invasive species and educating boat owners. Volunteers say that the response to the program so far has been positive.

Thanks to Z*lda for sending a link to this story.

Sunday, September 05, 2004

A Strain on Ant Relations

Back in February 2003 I posted about the Agricultural Research Service's efforts to find a biological control for the red imported fire ant (Solenopsis invicta). Now a kind reader has pointed out this March 2004 article from AgNews, about the detection of a protozoan (Thelohania solenopsae) in wild populations of the ant. Discovered in more than 75% of the Texas counties where the red imported fire ant is found, this strain of Thelohania solenopsae appears to have found its way to the ants without human intervention, and tests show that it is different from the strain used in laboratory tests.

Thanks to Thomas D. for sending in the link to this story.

Saturday, September 04, 2004

Vine and Dandy

When there's a pun in the title, it has to be a good report, right? :-) The Washington Post web site currently features an article titled "Love Me Tendril." It's about the many species of non-native vines taking over parts of D.C., Virginia and Maryland. Despite the silly title, this is a meaty article that covers everything from why a vine starts "vining" to management projects to Biblical references and poetry devoted to these twining plants.

Friday, September 03, 2004

Mass Invaders! Redux

invasive plants in Massachusetts poster

With the school year beginning this week in much of the U.S., teachers thinking about adding the topic of invasive plants to their curriculum should visit the Mass Invaders website. The site was developed as a companion to the poster you see above. While it is geared towards Massachusetts residents, it has dozens of links and several hundred photos, sure to be useful no matter what part of the country you call home. If you are a teacher in Massachusetts you can order a copy for the cost of postage (a mere $1.25!) by clicking on the "About" link at the website.

Thursday, September 02, 2004

Asian Invasion

Red imported fire ants (Solenopsis invicta) continue their nasty, globetrotting ways in the eastern hemisphere. According to this report from The China Post, the South American ants are now in Taiwan, first discovered in cargo containers a few years ago. Scientists are warning that if strong steps are not taken soon, the health of Taiwan's human population and livestock will be at risk, and that country's economy could take a hit of over $100 billion per year.

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

That Dirty Snake!

State workers in Maui were bewildered and outraged to discover that someone stole two of the traps they laid out to capture the brown tree snake (Boiga irregularis) that may be roaming the island. As reported by The Maui News, the chances of finding the snake have now been become even smaller, and the search party only has until Friday to complete the search. In related news from, Guam is cutting funding of their brown tree snake management program, increasing the likelihood that one will be introduced to Hawaii via a contaminated plane.