Friday, April 30, 2004

Whirling Chervils

The wild chervil (Anthriscus sylvestris) has resprouted in Vermont , and researchers are keeping a close eye on some of the plants by setting up experimental plots. As reported by The Herald, the scientists have been studying the species for several years, and have already learned important lessons that will be used to develop better management techniques. For example, though wild chervil was thought to be a biennial, individuals often survive for several years, meaning that continued cutting or mowing is needed to prevent their spread. Bonus points to The Herald for using the plant's scientific name.

Thursday, April 29, 2004

Toadally Gross

I came across this item today while searching for coin purses: Pete's Bizarre Bazaar Cane Toad Coin Purse I was looking for something a little classier, but I have to admit I was intrigued by the thought of a cane toad coin purse. Turns out that Pete's Bizarre Bazaar has a whole line of cane toad (Bufo marinus) leather products, from cell phone cases to baseball caps. The company is based in Australia, which has had great difficulty controlling burgeoning populations of the toads since their intentional introduction in the 1930's.

Wednesday, April 28, 2004

Snakehead Surprise

No, it's not a new recipe...according to this report from the Washington Post, a fisherman caught a northern snakehead (Channa argus) in Pine Lake, located in a park in Wheaton, Maryland. The fish was about 18 inches long. No word yet about whether it was part of a breeding population of snakeheads, or just a lone release. Within the past two years, snakeheads have also been found in Wisconsin, and of course, Crofton Pond, also in Maryland.

Update: See the actual snakehead that was caught, brought to you by Yahoo! News and the AP.

Updated map of snakehead spread in the U.S. (fresh as of 5-16-2004!):

California: Silverwood Lake 1997, Assi Supermarket, L.A. 5-2004Florida: Upper St. Johns River 2000Wisconsin: Rock River 9-2003Massachusetts: Newton Pond in Shrewsbury 2001Maryland: Crofton Pond 6-2002, Pine Lake 4-2004Virginia: Little Hunting Creek 5-2004, Potomac River 5-2004North Carolina: Lake Wylie, Upper Catawba River 2002
Make your own maps at World 66

Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Not-So-Sudden oak death

Canada seems to be coming a little late to the sudden oak death (Phytophthora ramorum) party, but they're making up for lost time. As reported by the UBC Botanical Garden weblog, the British Columbia Landscape and Nursery Association is doing more than quarantining potentially infected plants: they're actually recalling any camellia plants purchased since September 2003. People that have camellias are being asked to call a number and arrange to have someone come to get the plants. In exchange they will receive an "appreciation package."

Monday, April 26, 2004

Snails Snatched

Snails donated to the Wisconsin school system were seized by the Federal government recently, after they were discovered to be giant African land snails (Achatina fulica), according to this report at Yahoo! News. The snails were being used in classrooms at schools in at least three different Wisconsin cities. Giant African land snails are illegal in the U.S., due to their ability to spread meningitis and to become invasive in warmer climates. The last time they were discovered in the wild, in 1966 in the state of Florida, it took ten years to eradicate them.

Sunday, April 25, 2004

Fungo Americano

Discovery News recently posted a very interesting article about new research into the loss of stone pines (Pinus pinea) in Italy. The pine trees have been subject to attack by Heterobasidion annosum, a fungus from North America. The fungus is suspected to have been introduced in shipments of military goods sent to U.S. soldiers staying at the Castelporziano estate during World War II. Symptoms were not noticed until the 1980s, and even though the infected trees were removed, the disease continues to spread.

Thanks to a member of the ALIENS-L listserver for posting a link to the story, and bonus points to Discovery News for using scientific names.

Saturday, April 24, 2004

Invasion of Indiana

The emerald ash borer beetle (Agrilus planipennis) has been spotted for the first time in Indiana. According to this article from the Indianapolis Star, the beetle was found at a campground in Steuben County, and was first misidentified as another wood-boring beetle. Jamestown Township is now under quarantine (.pdf), meaning that no ash trees or lumber (or firewood of any tree species) can be taken from the town. On a potential positive note, Indiana's birds are probably psyched. If you live in Indiana and you think you've spotted an emerald ash borer, contact your Department of Natural Resources.

Friday, April 23, 2004

Pruning Bush

Here's what our fearless leader was up to today (as reported by Reuters): President Bush with pruning shears in Florida - Reuters

In a successful stab at a photo op, President Bush traveled to Florida, where he took time out from fundraising and speaking about the importance of protecting wetlands to help his brother Jeb remove invasive plants from the Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve. I did some digging, and it appears Bush may have been attacking melaleuca (Melaleuca quinquenervia) plants, among other invasives found at the reserve.

Thursday, April 22, 2004

From Bugs to Birds

There's an interesting article from the Detroit Free Press about a potential positive impact of the emerald ash borer (Agrilus planipennis) invasion in Michigan. Researchers have noted a rise in the populations of some bird species following the increased abundance of ash borer beetle larvae, which can be a food source for the birds.

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

The Tangled Bank

"It's April 21st, and everybody knows today is Earth Day, Merry Christmas, Happy Birthday to whoever's being born." Apparently someone decided Earth Day is April 22nd this year, but that's okay, since I'm posting this so late most of you are probably reading it on Thursday. In celebration of Earth Day (and obscure Dramarama references), here's something a little different: I've taken on hosting responsibilities for The Tangled Bank, a bi-weekly showcase of the best science weblog entries. If you publish a science blog and would like to submit one of your posts, head to the website and check it out. You can also check out the first edition at Pharyngula.

Tuesday, April 20, 2004

Arizona Triple Play

Invasive species articles in local newspapers are now an everyday occurrence. But this one from the Eastern Arizona Courier caught my eye because it mentions three invasive plants I've never heard of before. The first is the Sahara mustard plant (Brassica tournefortii), a species whose dried biomass increases the susceptibility of an area to fire. The second species is sweet resinbush (Euryops subcarnosus), a shrub intentionally introduced to Arizona as livestock forage and erosion control. Last but not least is camelthorn (Alhagi maurorum), a spiny legume that has been known to puncture tires.

Monday, April 19, 2004

New in the Literature

Recently published journal articles:

Sunday, April 18, 2004

Spotted Shrimp

Earlier this month, Hawai'i saw its first case of white-spot syndrome (also known as White Spot Syndrome Baculovirus Complex, or WSBV), a virus that affects shrimp. According to this report from the Honolulu Advertiser, a shrimp farm on Kaua'i is now under quarantine after a sample they sent to a lab came back positive for the virus. While known in Asia, Central and South America, and the Philippines, this is the first time the disease has occurred in Hawai'i.

Saturday, April 17, 2004

Controversy Sods On

There's an interesting article in the current issue of the LA City Beat about sudden oak death (Phytophthora ramorum). It addresses issues such as what plant species are really susceptible to the fungus, whether fighting the spread of SOD is just a pork barrel for California and the USDA, and why more people aren't turning to Agri-Fos (.pdf), a phosphonite fungicide that can kill Phytophthora species. Bonus points for the morbidly funny graphic of a tree with skulls hanging from it. Click here for previous ISW posts about sudden oak death.

Friday, April 16, 2004

Weevils Wobble

When you go through all the trouble of importing non-native insects into your state as a biological control, you want to be sure they're doing their job. That's why researchers were relieved to discover what's been behind the decline in effectiveness of two South American weevil species that were introduced to control burgeoning populations of water hyacinth (Eichhornia crassipes) in Florida. According to this report in Agricultural Research magazine, the culprit is a strain of microsporidia that is infecting the weevils (Neochetina eichhorniae and N. bruchi), causing loss of life and a major decrease in reproductive rates. Now that scientists know what's killing the weevils, they are looking into ways to control the microsporidia, including cold treatments and drugs. Microsporidia themselves are sometimes employed as biocontrol agents.

Thursday, April 15, 2004

Infected Blog

Sudden oak death (Phytophthora ramorum) is threatening to take over this blog! The discovery of the fungus in California nurseries and subsequent bans and quarantines of California nursery stock across the U.S. has been the subject of several ISW posts over the past couple of weeks. As I mentioned in Monday's post, articles in the L.A. Times indicated that the USDA was poised to override the strict quarantines imposed by some states. Now this article from Yahoo! Finance sheds more light on the situation. The bulk of the article is about what the California Association of Nurseries and Garden Centers (CANGC) wants the USDA to do, i.e. let them sell plants that are not known to carry the fungus or that are fungus-free. In reality, all that the USDA has done so far is implement their own restrictions (.pdf) on the movement of potentially infected plants, including stock from nurseries outside the 12 quarantined California counties. Bonus points to Yahoo! Finance for using SOD's scientific name, but they lose them all for the bizarre absence of the common name "sudden oak death."

Wednesday, April 14, 2004

Mass Invaders!

invasive plants in Massachusetts poster

I cordially invite all of you to visit the new Mass Invaders website. Developed in conjunction with an invasive plants poster given to teachers at the MEES conference this past March, the site is chock full of information about 12 species that many of you are likely to recognize, even if you're not from New England. Be sure to check out the photo gallery for each species, and click on the "About" link for information about how teachers can get their own copy of the poster.

Tuesday, April 13, 2004

Happy Birthday, Blog!

The Invasive Species Weblog is 2 years old today. The biggest change since I began blogging (way back in 2002 :-) is that rather than hunting for information to post, I now spend my time choosing between 5-10 invasive species stories that hit the news on a daily basis. It is great to see the increase in invasive species coverage in the media, and also the better general availability of online news sources.

Monday, April 12, 2004

Sudden Oak Death Update

Oregon and Indiana have quarantined plants grown in California that could be carrying sudden oak death fungus (Phytophthora ramorum). This brings the total number of states restricting imports to at least 12 13 since the disease was discovered in two California nurseries one month ago (Delaware, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, West Virginia, plus the 4 listed here).

Update to the Update: Seems California is not happy about all those states quarantining California nursery stock, especially with the spring planting season about to burst into full bloom. I have been waiting for this to break in the general media, but for some reason only the L.A. Times is reporting on it (sorry, free registration required). One story from March 31st describes the negotiations between the USDA and Florida regarding that state's strict quarantine of potentially-infected plants. Now this story from April 10th describes an impending ruling by the USDA that will supersede all state rulings regarding the transport of plant species susceptible to sudden oak death. I will post a link to the new USDA regulations, which are expected to be less strict than those imposed by several states, as soon as I can find them online.

Sunday, April 11, 2004

REEF-er Madness

The Reef Environmental Education Foundation (REEF :-) recently posted this report (.pdf) about the aquarium trade pathway on their website. There are actually many reasons to check out the main REEF website as well, especially the "Exotic Species Sighting Program." Anyone can sign up to report non-native marine fish species spotted during diving or scuba expeditions, and entries are recorded in a database which the general public can query.

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

Saturday, April 10, 2004

The Way We Worm

Audubon Magazine has an excellent article about earthworms in their March issue. In it, the author discusses the impacts of non-native earthworms in North America, and gives tips on how to dispose of worms used as fishing bait or in compost.

Monday, April 05, 2004

Brief Break

The Invasive Species Weblog will not be updated for the next few days, while I am at the Global Invasive Species Information Network (GISIN) conference. If you are craving more invasive species information, some recommended websites can be found here.


The Cape Times has this story about animal rights activists interfering with current management protocols for Himalayan tahrs (Hemitragus jemlahicus) on Table Mountain in South Africa. The tahr, which resembles a shaggy goat, was accidentally introduced to the area 70 years ago. Now more than 100 of the animals roam the mountain, causing erosion and eating native plants. Friends of the Tahr have organized to demand that workers at Table Mountain National Park stop killing the animals, and have even sued to stop the culling. Park officials say that tahr numbers are too high, and it is too expensive to trap and relocate the animals, which have gotten very good at hiding from humans.

Sunday, April 04, 2004

"Wisteria Hysteria"

According to this article from USA Today, Japanese and Chinese wisteria (Wisteria floribunda and W. sinensis) may be on their way to becoming the next kudzu. These beautiful ornamental vines are commonly planted to climb along roofs or arbors. Unfortunately, after a year of abundant rains, residents in Georgia and other parts of the southeastern U.S. are finding that the plants are growing out of control. Several plants have been found naturalizing along surface roads and freeways, and the species have turned out to be difficult to eradicate once plants are firmly established.

Saturday, April 03, 2004

Hear No Weevil

Scientists from the Agricultural Research Service are working to develop an improved version of a device that detects sounds made by insects. According to this story in Agricultural Research Magazine, the new machine is lighter and more durable, making it more convenient to bring it out into the field. By touching the device's wand to a large nail driven into the root ball of a plant, scientists are hoping to use the listening device to detect root-feeding insects like the black vine weevil (Otiorhynchus sulcatus).

Friday, April 02, 2004

Missed Opportunities

The Davis Enterprise is reporting that California officials have missed the boat with regard to the invasion of the New Zealand mud snail (Potamopyrgus antipodarum). Scientists say that though they reported the invasion of Putah Creek last year, not enough has been done about it, and now it's too late for any chance at eradicating the snails.

Thursday, April 01, 2004


Turns out the introduction of the African antelope known as the oryx (Oryx beisa) to New Mexico may have had unintended consequences, according to this story from the Billings Gazette. The beasts were released on the White Sands Missile Range back in the 1960s as an option for hunters. Now analysis of blood samples show that some of the animals are carrying antibodies for three never-before seen viruses, and others tested positive for malignant catarrhal fever (.pdf), a disease that is deadly to deer and elk. Scientists have yet to determine whether the pathogens afflicting the oryxes can be transmitted to other organisms.