Friday, December 31, 2004

Droppin' of the Carp

Why go to New York to see a big ol' boring apple descend from the heights this New Year's Eve? If I had a choice tonight I'd be in Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin, ringing in 2005 with the annual dropping of the carp. Yes, that's right folks, tonight Lucky the Carp, a 29 pound frozen fish, will mark the new year with a hundred foot drop. Other town festivities include the breaking of the Carp Pinata, a concert by Larry and the Carpettes, and the crowning of the Carp King and Queen. Read about it all in the Wisconsin State Journal, see photos of past years here, and find out more about the history of this bizarre event here.

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Rock Them Like a Hurricane

NPR has this audio report about the aftermath of Florida's hurricane season, with respect to invasive species. Scientists are worried that natural disturbance caused by hurricanes will lead to even more rapid invasion of the environment by non-native plants, and are calling for a management plan to ensure that the state is better equipped to deal with the after effects of this cyclic destruction.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Try Harder?

As reported by the Detroit Free Press, there is a study, due out in its full form next year, that concludes that efforts to stop the flow of invasive species into the Great Lakes system have failed. The author of the study, Gary Fahnenstiel, is advocating closing the Welland Canal that connects Lake Erie to Lake Ontario. Could it really be that easy to prevent new invasions? Well, from an environmental standpoint, yes. Add economics to the mix and there is suddenly no clear solution.

Z*lda from Mute Complications also points us to this excellent article from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, about Asian carp in Lake Michigan. It's part of a series, so be sure to check out the links in the right-hand column.

Monday, December 27, 2004

Fun with Google

Sunday, December 26, 2004

You Give us 28 Minutes, We'll Give You the Toad

The Leonard Lopate Show at WNYC had an interesting feature last Thursday about the cane toad (Bufo marinus) invasion in Australia. You can listen to a rebroadcast of the show in Real Audio by clicking on the link on this page. Do so, if only to hear the excellent Aussie accents :-)

Thanks to Val C. for sending in a link to this story.

Friday, December 24, 2004

Hey You Guys!!!!

An electric company in Virginia may provide the state with an interesting opportunity for invasive species outreach. According to this article from the Richmond-Times Dispatch, Dominion Virginia Power has offered to include a brochure about Virginia invaders in one of its bills. Not sure how well this meshes with the push for customers to switch to online billing, but the article states that the brochure would reach 2 million customers.

Thanks to a member of the Long Island Nature Conservacy for sending a link to this story.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Bulletproof Monks

Interesting article from the New York Times about the South American monk parakeets (Myiopsitta monachus) that have surprised some by establishing populations in the colder climates of places like Connecticut and Quebec. If you're interested in learning more about these invasive birds, I recommend the following two excellent ISW posts from guest blogger Jason South: 1, 2.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Rock Snot

New Zealand is having big troubles with didymo algae (Didymosphenia geminata). According to this article from, the freshwater algae is spreading in rivers in the southern part of the country. The government instigated a law back in 1993 fining fishermen who knowingly spread the algae, but that doesn't seem to have stopped its progression.

The article refers to the algae's North American name as "rock snot," though from what I can tell, that is just general slang for the slippery coating on any wet rock. Bonus points go to Stuff anyway, for using the algae's scientific name.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

The Rust Man Cometh

In honor of my yearly holiday trip to Pennsylvania, I bring you this article from PennState Live, about the impending arrival of soybean rust (Phakopsora pachyrhizi) here in PA. The article provides a nice summary of the proactive stance of state scientists and agricultural officials.

Monday, December 20, 2004

LA Story

The Louisiana Aquatic Invasive Species Task Force has come out with a draft of their state management plan for aquatic invasives. You've got about a month left if you would like to make comments. Read the report here, or check out the press release here.

Saturday, December 18, 2004

Do You Hear What I Hear?

Scientists using large plastic tarps to eradicate the invasive marine algae Caulerpa taxifolia have run into an unexpected problem (isn't that always the way?). The tarps, which were only meant to be temporary, have become habitat for some native species, including eelgrass (Zostera marina). Now the California Coastal Commission needs to decide whether to leave the tarps in place or remove them and once again displace the natives. You can listen to the full story by clicking on the link on this NPR web page.

Friday, December 17, 2004

Bombs Away!

Keeping it local again today...The Boston Globe has an interesting story about one of the unintended consequences of the removal of the elevated green line tracks near the North ("Nawth") End in Boston. It seems humans are not the only ones appreciating the new view - starlings (Sturnus vulgaris) have decided the area's historic buildings make ideal roosting spots. Shopowners in the area are not happy about the daily coating of guano their windows and sidewalks are receiving. MBTA and Big Dig bigwigs have been given a tour of the mess, but no one's ready to claim responsibility for dealing with the issue.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Ich bin kein Berliner...

...but I can certainly sympathize with the geranium farmer in Berlin, MA who lost about $200,000 this year when the USDA suspected that he may have geraniums infected with southern bacterial wilt (Ralstonia solanacearum r3b2). As reported by, the Department of Homeland Security invoked the Bioterrorism Protection Act and told Bruce Bartlett to incinerate 8500 plants. While Bartlett Greenhouse's starter plants came from the same company that sold an infected plant to a grower in New York, the disease was never found on any of Bartlett's geraniums. A more detailed report is available from

Update: Sadly, Mr. Bartlett apparently passed away less than a week after this story broke. My sympathies go out to the Barlett family.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Anty Money - Update

Regarding last week's blog entry about the fire ant-infested plant bought by an Oklahoma resident at the local Walmart: Turns out it wasn't a bulb at all, as originally reported. If you visit the web page from, there is a video of the original news story. The reporter mentions that it was the root ball and soil of a pine tree (not a plant bulb) in which the ants were found. Though the video is very blurry, it looks like the tree may be a Norfolk pine (Araucaria heterophylla). The report ends with a recommendation that, if you buy a plant "the first thing you should do when you get home is..." inspect the plant and the soil for insects. I'm thinking that if you live in the area, where those ants were found, you don't really want to wait until you get home to do that.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

SOD Off! Redux

This pathogen really gets around...the Shropshire Star has a great investigative report about the discovery of sudden oak death (Phytophthora ramorum) throughout Britain. Plants infected with the fungus-like pathogen include both nursery stock and forest species. Researchers have sprung into action across the country, and are currently conducting assessments to determine the extent of SOD spread and damage.

Bonus points to the Shropshire Star for using scientific names.

Monday, December 13, 2004


NY Newsday is reporting that New Jersey is about to sacrifice thousands of maple trees in an effort to prevent the spread of the Asian longhorn beetle (Anoplophora glabripennis). The wood-boring beetles were first found in New Jersey back in 2002. Officials are especially concerned because some forests in Northern New Jersey are 70% maple.

Sunday, December 12, 2004

New in the Literature

Recently published journal articles:

Saturday, December 11, 2004

Go fly a Kite!

Dave Thompson, a researcher at New Mexico State University, has a novel way of surveying plots to track salt cedar (Tamarix spp.) invasion. As reported by South Farm Press, Thompson attaches a digital camera to a kite and flies the apparatus a few hundred feet off the ground. The aerial view data is being collected to measure the impact of leaf beetles as a biological control on the invasive saltcedar biological control.

Friday, December 10, 2004

Adriatic Seized

The "killer algae" (Caulerpa taxifolia) and its lesser-known cousin C. racemosa are making their presence known in Croatia. According to this report from Reuters, large patches of the algae are showing up all over the Croatian side of the Adriatic Sea, threatening tourism as well as marine biodiversity. The two species apparently arrived in the area during the mid-1990s, and now cover hundreds of acres. Interested readers may also want to check out this article, translated from French by Google, about the same species.

Bonus points to Reuters for using scientific names.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

The Swan Hunters

Presumably while no one was looking, Maryland environmental officials got U.S. Representative Wayne Gilchrest to remove a major barrier to mute swan (Cygnus olor) control in that state. As reported by WJZ News, Gilchrest "slipped" language into a bill that keeps the swans from being protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. Then the "Migratory Bird Treaty Reform Act of 2004" managed to make its way into the omnibus spending bill that recently passed the House. WJZ also links to a video version of the story.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Anty Money?

The Oklahoma Department of Agriculture is investigating the apparent transport of fire ants into the state. According to this story from, a family bought a plant bulb from their local Walmart, only to have the mother be attacked by fire ants in the soil when she tried to repot it. The article does not indicate the species of plant the stinging insects were found in, and scientists have yet to confirm the ant species (they could be red imported fire ants (Solenopsis invicta) or little fire ants (Wasmannia auropunctata), among other species). If they are indeed fire ants, Walmart's plant distributor could be fined.

Monday, December 06, 2004

Anty Establishments

Weather conditions in California has caused ants to swarm into residences and businesses, according to this report at KTLA5. It is suspected that most of the home invasions are by Argentine ants (Linepithema humile) October was rather rainy, and November was cold, and the combination apparently sent some signal to millions of the insects to pick up and find new homes. Argentine ants are thought to be more persistent than native California ant species about settling down in human-built structures.

Bonus points to the author of the article for using the scientific name.

Sunday, December 05, 2004

Anty Virus

ARS News is reporting that their scientists have found the first known virus to infect the red imported fire ant (Solenopsis invicta). The virus, in the Dicistroviridae family, has been given the creative name Solenopsis invicta virus-1 (SINV-1). I guess they are hoping to find more :-)

Saturday, December 04, 2004

Anty Christchurch

Back in May 2003 I posted about Argentine ants (Linepithema humile) invading Rotorua, New Zealand. That was on the North Island of New comes news from Scoop that the ants are causing problems on the South Island, too. Officials in Christchurch are asking residents to contact insect pest professionals if they think they have an Argentine ant infestation. There's even a hotline set up by the Department of Conservation for people to report ant sightings.

Thanks to Val C. for sending in the link to this story.

Friday, December 03, 2004

East Meets West Meets East

The Quebecois have extended a not-so-gracious welcome to their newest invader: the Chinese mitten crab (Eriocheir sinensis). According to this report from the CBC, scientists think the crab, which needs both fresh and salt water to reproduce, is likely to spread through the St. Lawrence River. This species is already quite well-known in California.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Last but not Least is reporting that Maine just became the last of the 48 continental United States to report the presence of Eurasian water milfoil (Myriophyllum spicatum) [Hmmm...looks like the USDA PLANTS database has a bit of catching up to do.]. The invasive aquatic plant was found in a quarry back in October. Officials are relieved that this is not a recreational site, meaning that they don't have to worry about boaters spreading the plant all over the state. Various control options are currently being considered.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Oh Poo!

This article from ABC News Australia is noteworthy because it mentions the word "poo" not once, but seven times. The report is about a new DNA test that offers researchers a quick and easy way to tell if the scat they've found belongs to a European red fox (Vulpes vulpes) or to some other mammal. The red fox was introduced to Australia for hunting back in the mid-1800s, and has since gone on to establish multiple feral populations.

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