Sunday, May 30, 2004

Better Late than Never

It's a bit late to be reporting on this, but today is the last day of Michigan's "Emerald Ash Borer Awareness Week." The state of Michigan, which has been dealing with the emerald ash borer (Agrilus planipennis) for about two years, has responded with stronger steps to prevent the beetle's spread. Key in this public awareness campaign is a warning to the public to avoid transporting firewood and other ash products that could be infested with the beetles or their larvae. Here's a related article from the Holland Online Sentinel, describing the early detection program now in place in the state's uninfested counties.

Saturday, May 29, 2004

Saturday in the Park

Something new for you, in the spirit of the meme to set aside a day of the week for a special set of blog posts. With spring in full swing in the Western hemisphere, volunteer groups are out in full force fighting invasives. Here's a list of weekend "Weedbusting" activities:

Friday, May 28, 2004

Aussie Animal Kingdom

Researchers in Australia have come out with a new economic impact report that estimates the cost of the top invasive animals in that country. According to this story from the Sydney Morning Herald, the top eleven feral animals, including foxes, cats and rabbits, cost at least $720 million AUS per year ($518 million US). The researchers made some interesting estimates of environmental costs, including losses to the tourist industry caused by a lack of native charismatic megafauna, and increased pesticide use following a drop in insect-eating bird populations (due to feral cat predation). The report, "Counting the Cost: Impact of Invasive Animals in Australia 2004," was produced by the Co-operative Research Centre for Pest Animal Control. Download the full report here.

Thursday, May 27, 2004

Whack and Pack

As reported by WBAL Channel 11, yet another northern snakehead (Channa argus) has been found in the Potomac River in Virginia, this time in Pohick Bay. Officials are now giving really specific instructions to anyone who catches one of these ugly fishes: whack it on the head to kill it, pack it on ice, and give them a call. While the fish was caught in Virginia, the Maryland Natural Resources Police "took it into custody." I've updated the snakehead map with this new information:

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 5-2004, Pohick Bay 5-2004North Carolina: Lake Wylie, Upper Catawba River 2002
Make your own maps at World 66

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Guest Blogger Wanted

I will be away in mid-June and am looking for a guest blogger or two to fill in while I am gone. If you have an interest in invasive species (of course you do, why else would you be here?) and would like to blog, drop me an email via the "Suggest a Post" link to the left. Experience not necessary!


The sudden oak death fungus (Phytophthora ramorum) has been found on a tree in Pennsylvania that - you guessed it - was purchased from a California nursery. As reported by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, scientists don't expect that the disease has had a chance to spread, because the camellia tree has been kept indoors since it was received. Much has been reported on SOD at the ISW, click here to see past posts.

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

Monday, May 24, 2004

New in the Literature

It's a long list this month, I had some catching up to do...

Recently published journal articles:

Sunday, May 23, 2004

Not Permitted

The Parks Department of Big Sur, California probably thought they were doing a good thing when they started to clear away thousands of invasive shrubs at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park. But according to this article from the Monterey Herald, neighboring property owners were not pleased. Turns out the Parks Department was mistakenly advised that they did not need a permit to do the work. Now that they've done things the proper way, by going before the Planning Commission and creating a restoration plan, things are back on track.

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

Friday, May 21, 2004

They ain't lion...or are they?

Yahoo! News has this story about a warning from NOAA that lionfish (Pterois volitans/miles complex) populations are on the rise along the east coast of the U.S. Initial reports of the species in northern Atlantic waters over the last few years were suprising to many who assumed that these tropical, stinging beauties could not survive in cooler waters. NOAA researchers will be out in the Atlantic Ocean this summer determining the extent of lionfish distribution and abundance. You can read the official press release here, or get the full report here (.pdf).

Thursday, May 20, 2004

Bug Porn

There seems to be no end to the supply of Asiatic lily beetles (Lilioceris lilii) in my yard:

image of two Asiatic lily beetles

So far I've killed about 25 of them, on 5 small lily plants. There is not a single leaf left that doesn't have a nibble taken out of it. I'm hoping that with continued removal (i.e. flicking them on the ground and crushing them repeatedly with a rock) of the adults, there will be little egg-laying and maybe no new beetles next year. If you are interested, you can read more about my history with these insects in previous ISW posts.

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Pig Tales

There's an interesting report in The Capital Times about the problems feral pigs (Sus scrofa) are causing in Wisconsin. In it, a farmer complains about the significant losses caused by the pigs rooting through corn fields and building humongous nests. The main response of the government so far has been to cull populations by shooting the pigs. Feral pig hunting is legal in Wisconsin with a permit, so the farmers are getting in their shots as well.

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

The San Francisco Treat

Yahoo! News is reporting that African clawed frogs (Xenopus laevis) have taken up residence in Lily Pond, part of San Francisco's Golden Gate Park. While Lily Pond is not exactly a prized natural habitat, the fact that the frogs are there means there is a risk that they could escape to more natural bodies of water in the area.

Once a popular pet for Californians, African clawed frogs have been banned in that state, but can still be used for research or educational purposes. Officials suspect they were introduced intentionally by people who did not want them to be killed. While the population has been known about for almost a year, a lack of funding has delayed plans for eradication. Be sure to click on the "AP Photo" in the story to see a drawing and more information about the species.

(Thanks to a member of the ALIENS-L listserver for pointing out this story.)

Sunday, May 16, 2004

Snakehead Public Awareness Week?

Either our waterways are about to be overrun with snakeheads (Channa spp.), or public awareness about the voracious, walking fish has hit an all-time high. Last week, as reported by the Washington Post, a snakehead fish was caught by a fisherman in the Potomac River in Virginia, just a week after one was caught in a tributary of the same river. Then, later in the week, reports like this one from the Los Angles Daily News described the arrest of a grocer who was importing and selling snakeheads in his shop at the Assi Marketplace in Koreatown, L.A. The shop's manager claimed ignorance of U.S. laws banning the import of snakeheads, considered a delicacy in several Asian cultures.

Following this and other recent reports about snakehead sightings, I've updated my "Tour of the U.S." snakehead map. Place your mouse pointer over the red states for details. For more specific information about logged sightings of this fish, visit this USGS web page.

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

Update 05/26/2006: Yes, it is true, DU people, I did indeed give up on populating this map...I did so when the USGS maps went back online, after some serious downtime. Here is the USGS map, which is updated using the point locations I linked to above, so it should be current. However, as of 05/26/2006 the USGS maps were once again failing :-(.

States with northern snakehead occurrences that are not colored in on the above map are: Illinois (2004), New York (2005), and Pennsylvania (2004).

Update 01/2008: This map is outdated. For a current snakehead distribution, click here [USGS].

Saturday, May 15, 2004

Stalking the Wild Knotweed

This past week I was in Washington state, and had the opportunity to go out knotweed hunting in Seattle with freelance botanist Peter Zika (Thanks Peter!). There seem to be many more hybrid stands (Fallopia x bohemica) - obvious crosses between Japanese knotweed (Fallopia japonica) and giant knotweed (Fallopia sachalinense) - in Seattle than in Massachusetts. It was also easier to find the spectacularly-leaved giant knotweed there (pictured below), though both it and Japanese knotweed were nowhere near as common as their hybrid offspring.

photo of giant knotweed

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

Seattle Siesta

Minimal blog posts until I'm back from Seattle. This city and its environs are steeped in invasives like Scotch broom (Cytisus scoparius), Himalayan blackberry (Rubus discolor) and English ivy (Hedera helix). It's hard for me to see how park officials at Mercer Island can even think about trying to eradicate English ivy from public land, when the majority of homeowners there have at least some part of their land landscaped with it. Here is a photo from a Mercer Island park, showing the dense English ivy understory in a forest:

photo of English Ivy in a Mercer Island park

Friday, May 07, 2004

Busy Beetles

image of lily leaf beetle

Well, it took about 2 weeks from the time the Asian lilies in my yard resprouted for the lily leaf beetles (Lilioceris lilii) to show up. I don't care for Asian lilies, and these are just leftover in pots from the previous owner, but I have been watching them carefully since I saw the damage the beetles inflicted last year. There were two pairs on the plants today (one on top of the other), and one all alone. All five are dead now, but I'm sure there will be more as the season progresses. Adult lily leaf beetles emerge from the ground in the spring to mate, and while they are not as disgusting to look at as their feces-covered larvae, they also cause leaf damage. You can see last July's ISW entry about the beetles by clicking here.

Wednesday, May 05, 2004

Tangled Bank #2

Behold! The second issue of The Tangled Bank, a "Carnival of the Vanities" for us geeky science types.

  • Borneo Chela features this entry about the mass emergence of 17-year cicadas that will occur in the U.S. this spring and summer (Insert "Ick!" or "Cool!" here, depending on your level of geekiness).
  • From the Fried Man comes this post about how diatoms, plus a little help from man, may save your SUVs. A new study in Antarctica shows that seeding the southern ocean with iron ("iron fertilization") produces huge algal blooms that suck carbon dioxide in from the atmosphere. Much of the resulting carbon ends up hundreds of meters below the surface, meaning that this may be a practical way to reduce atmospheric carbon dioxide and fight the greenhouse effect.
  • 10,000 Birds submits Bird Squawk, Baby Talk, a n intriguing review of studies that show similarities between the way that human babies and some songbird chicks learn to vocalize.
  • A little neurobiology lesson from Pharyngula: This post describes growth cones and some of the machinery involved in growth and steering of neurons. Be sure to check out the cool animated .gif!
  • The Sixth International indulges in some Saturday lizard blogging, featuring the beautiful lizards of Formentera.
  • From Feathers of Hope comes this post about an encounter with a barred owl in a surprising location.
  • syaffolee has an interesting blog post about how fabricated data was exposed following its discovery in an article published in the journal Cell.
  • And now for something completely different: submitted for your approval from Ratty's Ghost, "The Giant Rat," a fictional tale (tail?) written from a rat's point of view.

If you missed out on getting your blog post into this issue, #3 will be hosted by 10,000 Birds on May 19th. Submit your posts and descriptions to

Tuesday, May 04, 2004

Tropical Scotland?

Peach-faced lovebirds (Agapornis roseicollis), native to East Africa, are breeding in the wilds of Scotland, according to this article at The birds, known in the town of Dunbar since at least 2001, are assumed to be former pets that were released by their owners into the wild. Arizona also has established populations of this species - check out this site for detailed information along with adorable photos of lovebirds on saguaro.

Monday, May 03, 2004

"...worse than an oil spill, because we can clean that up"

The Mozambique tilapia (Tilapia mossambica) may be catch-of-the-day in many restaurants, but on the island of Palau, it's poisson-non-grata. As reported by Channel NewsAsia, officials have eradicated almost 30,000 of them, out of concern for the likelihood of their escape into the natural environment. Tilapia are considered invasive in many parts of the world, and are thought to be a major threat to Palau's native fish populations. Looks like Palau's poison of choice is rotenone...couldn't they just have had an island-wide fish fry?

Sunday, May 02, 2004

Snakehead Update

Now that a second northern snakehead (Channa argus) fish has been found in Maryland, lawmakers are taking steps to ban the species...again. As reported by The Baltimore Sun, legislation was already enacted last year, after the first snakehead was found, giving Maryland's Department of Natural Resources the power to outlaw the species. The DNR never enacted the ban, because the federal government put the northern snakehead on the list of Injurious Wildlife Species under the Lacey Act, and it is already illegal in Maryland to dump fish in waterways. Unfortunately, the Lacey Act only covers importation into the U.S. and interstate transport, meaning that there is nothing to stop local businesses and individuals from breeding and selling snakeheads. Meanwhile, WJLA is reporting that Pine Lake has now been completely drained, with no other snakeheads found. Non-snakehead fish were redistributed to neighboring ponds.

Saturday, May 01, 2004

Heavy Breeding

It was over a year ago since the first ISW post about the veiled chameleons (Chamaeleo calyptratus) in Maui. Unfortunately, KPUA AM 670 is now reporting that Hawaiian wildlife officials have found more than 100 of the reptiles, indicating that they have established at least one breeding population. Veiled chameleons have no natural enemies in Hawaii, and commonly include birds and other lizards as part of their diets. Though people often keep them as pets, they have never been legal to import into Hawaii.