Thursday, May 26, 2005

Time Off for Bad Behavior

No takers for the Guest Blogger position (my ego is crushed), so it looks like the ISW will be taking some time off - back on June 1st. Until then, please study this lovely photo of the invasive Bell's honeysuckle (Lonicera x bella), from a population in Quincy, MA. Very dark pink flowers, as found in its parent, Lonicera tatarica, but the leaves are quite hairy underneath, as found in its other parent, Lonicera morrowii.

Bell's Honeysuckle
Malaysian Maladies

As reported by the New Straits Times, Malaysia is facing a problem following repeated releases of non-native animals. Both the North American bullfrog (Rana catesbeiana) and the Taiwanese edible frog (Hoplobatrachus chinensis) are raised in Malaysia for food. Unfortunately some well-meaning people have been "rescuing" the frogs from their likely dinner plate destination, by releasing them into local natural areas. Ironically, the last big batch of Taiwanese edible frogs to be found in a botanical garden were recaptured and sent off to a Chinese restaurant.

Bonus points to the New Straits Times for using the frogs' scientific names. But -1 for misspelling Hoplobatrachus. And +1 to Google for recognizing the misspelling :-).

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

So Sue Me

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) is being sued by a group of Kenyans in an effort to get the FAO to take responsibility for spreading the invasive Prosopis juliflora, according to this report from Affectionately called "Devil trees," but known here in its native America as Mesquite, Prosopis was intentionally introduced to Kenya by the FAO back in the 1970s and 1980s to combat soil erosion and provide a firewood source. Now the growth of this species is out of control, and local people want the FAO to remove plants and replace them with native flora.

Thanks to a member of the Yahoo! group ma-eppc for posting about this story. Bonus points to for using the plant's scientific name.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Eggstraterrestrial Field Work

Intersting piece in The Capital about the work involved in trying to control the invasive mute swan (Cygnus olor) in Maryland. Field workers charged with doing the job must hunt down swan nests, typically navigating through mucky wetlands to do so. Any eggs found are sprayed with an oil that cuts off all air flow through the shells, which prevents the eggs from hatching. Maryland's Department of Natural Resources hopes to target 300 swan nests this year, potentially stopping over a thousand mute swans from joining current populations.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Whirling Gig

ESPN Outdoors is reporting that almost 1 million rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) in a hatchery in Utah will have to be destroyed after several of the fish were found to be infected with whirling disease (Myxobolus cerebralis). Caused by a parasite, whirling disease is thought to have been introduced through European salmonid fish during the 1950s. Some native trout species, salmon, and possibly even whitefish are susceptible to the parasite, making it even more perilous to release infected hatchery fish into local water bodies. Of course, the rainbow trout is also considered an invasive species in several parts of the U.S.

Tip of the virtual hat to the Stop Aquatic Hitchhikers website for posting about the article.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Bee Bomb

As reported in the Springfield News-Leader (among many others), honeybee populations in the U.S. have been decimated by infestations of the Varroa mite (Varroa jacobsoni). Nationwide, the number of hives are at about 50% of what they were a year ago, after a cold winter where the bees slowed down but the mites did not. Unfortunately the mites have evolved a resistance to the two main insecticides being used against them. Expect not only less honey, but fewer and more expensive fruits and vegetables in the supermarkets this season.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Thirst Quenchers

There is an interesting side effect of the current drought in Australia, according to this report from ABC News Australia. Seems gardeners, unhappy with the lack of rain, are looking to the internet in their quest to grow plants that stay lush and green. Unfortunately descriptive phrases like "drought resistant" and "drought tolerant" are often associated with plants not native to Australia, including species considered invasive in that country. Interested readers will also want to check out this related article that was featured in the environment & nature section of ABC News Australia last March.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Pigging Out

blogs for industry has posted a really interesting dissection of the feral pig problem out on Santa Cruz Island. The ISW reported about the problem back in March...but that post was sorely lacking in cool graphs :-).

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Seeking Guest Bloggers

The ISW is seeking guest bloggers to submit one or more invasive species-related posts from May 25th through May 31st. If you are interested, drop me an email using the "Suggest a Post" link in the top right corner of this page.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

A Reptile Dysfunction

The ISW is pleased to present this interesting piece about Florida's green iguana (Iguana iguana) invasion. It was written by Angela Comparato, a University of Florida student and up-and-coming journalist, who has graciously given permission for me to post it in its entirety. Thanks Angela!

photo of pet green iguana

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Neon green baby iguanas, believed by pet owners to be sweet and small, may soon grow into aggressive, mature adults, whipping about their 3-foot-long tails and hissing whenever handled.

Ownership of the iguana has proven to be a bigger responsibility than expected, and as a result, many owners have released their pet iguanas of different species into the wild causing an ever-growing overpopulation and inundation of unwanted iguanas in South Florida.

Many people may not realize the ramifications, but a certain Gainesville reptile shop does.

“I hate the iguana trade, and that’s why I won’t participate in it,” said Nicol Spann, owner of 21st Century Reptiles.

Like many other pet shops that have voluntarily taken iguanas off the market, this reptile shop stopped selling iguanas four years ago. However, flea markets continue to sell them for about $10 each, Spann said.

The most common is the green iguana because they are often bought as pets. Iguanas appear to be an affordable and manageable pet because they can be kept in an inexpensive tank and only need to be fed once a week.

However, people eventually get rid of their iguana because they can bite, scratch, and whip their tails.

“Too many people buy iguanas and don’t realize that 99 percent of the time they become aggressive,” Spann said.

In addition, 21st Century Reptiles refuses to take in iguanas, receiving about one iguana owner a month trying to unload their unwanted pet to the store. One iguana was left at their doorstep, which they were forced to keep, Spann said.

Instead of accepting them, Spann suggests posting an adoption flyer on the store’s poster board.

The reptile shop would like to help these iguanas, but they can carry harmful parasites.

“Parasites can spread to the entire population of the reptiles in the store before I even know it’s there,” Spann said.

While parasites can cause problems, the biggest concern with iguanas is salmonella, a bacteria found in the intestines that can cause food poisoning, said William Kern, assistant professor of entomology and nematology at the University of Florida IFAS Fort Lauderdale Research and Education Center.

Any environment containing iguana feces has potential for infectious bacteria, Kern said.

The iguana trade can also be destructive to the environment.

“This is true not only in Florida but also in the home countries where they are taken from,” Spann said. “Removing them from the ecosystem allows certain plants to grow rampant.”

As a result, the biological balance is being thrown off in Mexico, Central America and South America where the iguanas originate.

Kern said there has been no survey conducted to estimate the number of iguanas in Florida, but the already large number is increasing.

These exotic pets are able to thrive because Florida has a subtropical climate.

Iguanas inhabit Monroe, Miami-Dade, Palm Beach, Collier, Lee, Sarasota and Pinellas Counties and are spreading to more coastal, central Florida counties, Kern said.

The overpopulation of the iguanas is wreaking havoc on the environment among the plants they feed on, including hibiscus, which is their favorite food.

“They will completely strip an entire tree,” Kern said. In addition, iguanas will eat valuable ornamental plants.

“If you’ve been babying an orchid, waiting for it to bloom, and then you come in, and it’s gone, you would get pretty mad,” Kern said.

Iguanas are also a threat to plants that are in danger of extinction.

The black spiny-tailed iguana feeds on the endangered curacao bush, said Kenneth Krysko, herpetologist at the Florida Museum of Natural History at the University of Florida.

Krysko said no one, including the state, is doing anything to control this problem.

“I find it funny that the state will fund millions of dollars if a small fruit fly is found in an orchid, yet when there is document of a reptile feeding on an endangered plant species, they don’t do anything,” Krysko said.

The iguanas could be controlled. However, the law protects the green iguana because it is listed by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), which ensures that international trade of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival.

Green iguanas are listed by CITES because of their importance to the pet trade.

Another obstacle in controlling the iguana overpopulation is public resistance of animal conservation groups that have a moral objection to the killing of these animals even though they are acting as pests, Kern said.

However, many botanical gardens are under financial pressure to control the iguanas because they are doing substantial damage to their plants.

“Do we risk the loss of potential clients by killing the iguanas, or on the other hand, do we risk the destruction of valuable plant collections if the iguanas are not controlled?” Kern said.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Kudzu Cocktail

As heard on WBZ 1030 this afternoon, Reuters is reporting that doctors have found that an extract made from the invasive kudzu vine (Pueraria montana var. lobata) appears to curb binge drinking. Authors of the medical study suspect that something in the kudzu makes people satisfied with a smaller amount of alcohol than they typically consume. Participants in the study were given either kudzu extract or a placebo, and were then brought to an apartment with an entertainment center and bar. Wow - where can I volunteer to be a guinea pig? :-)

Saturday, May 14, 2005


NOAA News Online posted this story about NOBOB (NO Ballast On Board) ships, i.e. ships that are completely loaded with cargo and have no ballast water. A survey of international ships that visit the Great Lakes region revealed that even they are at risk of introducing non-native organisms into the environment. It can happen after the cargo is unloaded, at which time a ship must take on Great Lakes water as ballast. If that ship then visits another port in the Great Lakes to load cargo, the ballast must be dumped...and along with it, all the nasty "residual foreign water and sediment and the organisms therein" that normally is not pumped out. The article links to the full report at the bottom of the page.

Friday, May 13, 2005

A Little Waspish

The Old World woodwasp (Sirex noctilio Fabricius) has been found in New York, the first wild occurrence the U.S., according to this report at ABC News. This wasp species has already caused great harm to pine forests in other parts of the world, so the government is none too happy about the discovery. Old World wasps kill trees in part by spreading toxic fungal spores (Amylostereum areolatum) whereever the females lay their eggs. Bonus points to the AP for using the wasp's scientific name (with Author!) in the article.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Egg Roles

The glassy winged sharpshooter (Homalodisca coagulata) has been found again in Solano County, California, according to this report from the Daily Republic. Inspectors found several egg masses on tree leaves in Vacaville, in the same area where they were found last year. Treatment is going to start fast, as officials are very concerned that the leafhoppers will attack nearby vineyards including those in the famous Napa valley.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Something Doesn't Smell Fishy

In what is perhaps the epitomy of innovation, a group of Japanese companies has come up with a unique way of dealing with the invasive black bass (Micropterus sp.). As reported by Daily Yomiuri, the companies have worked together to perfect the process of carbonizing the fish - in other words, they're making bass charcoal. The charcoal is used as a room deodorizer, with the label "We no longer eat crucian carp and ayu sweetfish, just odors."

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Bah Bah Barberry

Doing a bit of field work the next day or two, so until the next meaty post, here is a photo of Japanese barberry, Berberis thunbergii 'Atropurpurea.' Because we all need a few more naturalized cultivars in our lives ;-).

Monday, May 09, 2005

Kudzu? Can Do!

Interesting article from National Geographic about a woman in Appalachia who makes products out of kudzu (Pueraria montana). Nancy Basket makes paper, candies, and, of course, baskets from the invasive vine. Be sure to click on the article link so you can see the photo of her artist's studio, which is insulated with bales of kudzu.

Thanks to Val C. for sending in a link to the article.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Fair Trade?

BBC News has this story about the invasion of beaver (Castor canadensis) on the Argentinian part of the island known as Tierra del Fuego. The beaver was introduced from Canada in the mid-1900s with the goal of creating a fur industry. Coincidentally, this is one of the same reasons a wetland rodent native to Argentina, the nutria (Myocastor coypus), was introduced to the southern U.S. Unfortunately, neither project was successful from a business standpoint. Now the beavers in Argentina are messing with loggers by claiming trees as their own, damming rivers, and polluting the water. Stakeholders are concerned about what could happen if the beavers make it to the mainland.

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

Friday, May 06, 2005

New in the Literature

Recently published journal articles:

Thursday, May 05, 2005

News and Squirrel

As if Taiwan and China weren't having enough Taiwanese red-bellied squirrels (Callosciurus erythraeus thaiwanensis) are invading Japan. As reported by, the squirrels now number in the tens of thousands, and are considered a big pest around Kamakura. Unfortunately, many Japanese find the "Taiwan-risu" to be cute and like to feed them (OK, I do not blame them, they are really really cute! :-) ).

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Borer Borer

ABC News is reporting that the Asian ambrosia beetle (Xylosandrus crassiusculus) is spreading throughout the state of Arkansas. First spotted in that state about three years ago, the beetle bores into tree trunks and can cause serious damage, especially to younger trees. Scientists are not sure why there are so many new reports of beetle-infested trees this year. Those interested will also want to check out this ISW post about the Asian ambrosia beetle in South Carolina.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Wicked Awesome

Those of you not from Massachusetts probably won't understand this, but "Whoa" - there's an article about invasive plants in the Boston Herald. Not just a press release or something plucked off the wire, either. It's an honest-to-goodness feature, with quotes from many of the state's major acronyms, including EOEA, NHESP, MAS, and even the up-and-coming IPAG. A nicely written piece that covers the gardening angle as well as the ecosystem angle, worth a read no matter where you are from.

Monday, May 02, 2005

Take an E-Field Trip

Ball State University is hosting an electronic field trip about invasive species this May 10th. Classrooms can register to access pre-trip learning modules, view a live internet broadcast, and participate in discussions with biologists. As noted by newswise, part of the program will focus on aquatic invasives in nearby San Francisco Bay.

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