Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Unplanned Parrothood

The ISW is just a bevy of controversy these days. First eagle owls "re"appear in the UK, then the much-hated sea lamprey is declared a native in Lake Champlain. Now we've got people ready to go to jail to protect the incredibly-cute-but-just-might-be-invasive monk parakeets (Myiopsitta monachus, also known as Quaker parrots) that have moved into Connecticut. As reported by the Boston Globe, a Connecticut power company has refused to stop dismantling nests that the parakeets built on top of utility poles, claiming that the nests are a danger and a fire hazard. Because the South American native are officially birda-non-grata in Connecticut, the power company must turn over any keets they catch to the USDA for euthanization. A local expert points out in the article that the state already tried and failed to eradicate the monk parakeets when they first became a problem...thirty years ago.

For more information:

  • Two excellent ISW guest posts from Jason at Borneo Chela: 1, 2.
  • The Stop Killing the Parrots website may be the epicenter of all pro-monk parakeet activity.
  • The Brooklyn Parrots website is also keeping up on the Connecticut monk parakeet situation, and of course has many other stories about the populations in New York.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Native or Not: You Make the Call

Close on the heels of the eagle owl's return to England, the sea lamprey (Petromyzon marinus) has been officially named a Vermont Native. As reported by the Burlington Free Press, researchers have used molecular tools to conclude that the fish have called Lake Champlain home for at least 11,000 years, after migrating up the St. Lawrence River from the Atlantic Ocean. I wonder what the New York side of the lake thinks about this :-).

Monday, November 28, 2005

Eagle Owl Cheery?

BBC News is reporting that the Eurasian eagle owl (Bubo bubo) is [possibly once again] in the wilds of the UK, likely emigrating from expanding populations in Europe. The annoucement is not without controversy, as there has been some debate as to whether or not the owl should be considered native to the British Isles. That's not keeping BBC Two from showing "Natural World - Return of the Eagle Owl." Some welcome the beautiful birds, known as the largest owls in the world, while others are more skeptical. The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds has their say on the matter here, noting that conservationists should keep in mind that eagle owls may negatively impact native UK wildlife.

Feeling strongly about the rights of the eagle owl to settle in the UK? Try reading this post again, replacing every instance of "eagle owl" with "stinging mucus wasp."

Tip of the virtual hat to Roger B. for sending in a link to the story, and minus two points each to the BBC and the RSPB for not mentioning the scientific name of the bird.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Weekend Blog Blogging

Over at Bootstrap Analysis last week, there was an interesting post titled "sudden oak death = fewer birds." It's about the effects of the sudden oak death pathogen (Phytophthora ramorum) on birds that rely on oak trees for food and shelter.

The Inside Dope blogged about "Jacobs rides to the rescue on Asian carp eradication," which features a critique of the proposed plan to fund the creation of a market for processed carp in Illinois (blogged at the ISW earlier this month). It also features an image of a man riding a carp. Weird.

The Taming of the Band-Aid posted a photo of a peacock, but it's not in a zoo - it's perched on what looks like a concrete cylinder, somewhere in the wilds of Florida.

Update: thingfish23 of Taming of the Band-Aid responds:

I photographed that peacock in mid-November. Hurricane Wilma destroyed the fence that was keeping it (and the two other peacocks that live there - another male and a female) on the property. I have seen them in the street many times since the storm.
Read the comments under this post for more.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Weekend ImageBlogging

Some new gear recently debuted in the Invasive Species Weblog store, including:

Japanese knotweed beer stein Japanese knotweed tote bag

If you're planning on buying some stuff for your favorite weed geek, or anything else at Cafepress, be sure to use the FREESHIP code for orders over $50US.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Honey, I Shrunk the Hive

The Australian reports that a new beetle from Southern Africa is decimating honeybee colonies across Australia. The small hive beetle (Aethina tumida, also known as SHB) damage hives and contaminate honey with their feces. The SHB is a fairly recent invader, first detected outside its native range in the late 1990s, and discovered in Australia in 2002. Note that the bees being affected worldwide are typically introduced species themselves - some strain of the European honeybee, Apis mellifera. The beetles do not seem to be impacting native Australian bees, and the same appears to be true in North Ameerica, where most native bee species do not form colonies.

Bonus points to The Australian for including the beetle's scientific name. And thanks to a member of the ALIENS-L listserver for posting a link to this story.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

You got Your Zebra Mussels in my Peanut Butter!

Is it a new candy sensation? Thank goodness no! It's actually a rather sinister story reported in the Billings Gazette. Recently someone left a large peanut butter jar filled with water and mussels in front of the offices of the Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge in Montana. Testing revealed that the water contained several stages of zebra mussels (Dreissena polymorpha), and likely came from a source where there are well-established, breeding populations of the mussels. The odd thing is that Montana doesn't have any known infestations of that species - the closest site is in North Dakota. No one has any idea why someone would bring the jar to Montana and leave it where they did, but the sample is currently being searched for fingerprints or other information that will help uncover the mystery.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Oh Yes Weed ID!

The Free New Mexican has this story about a new online weed identification resource developed at New Mexico State University. The Weed Identification Tool contains data for over 100 weeds, many of them non-native. Users trying to identify a plant sample choose a growth form (tree, grass, etc.) and then select from a list of characters to narrow down the search. It's a neat tool for even the most basic user, and is chock full of decent photographs.

Monday, November 21, 2005

The Details in the Devils

The results are in, and according to this story at CBC Manitoba, North Dakota's Devils Lake is free of twelve species of invasive plant and fish that biologists were testing it for. That's the good news for Canada's Lake Winnipeg, the recipient of water flowing from Devils Lake into the Sheyenne River. The bad news is that tests did uncover several species of algae and fish parasites. Now the US and Canada get to argue about who's paying for the filtration system between the two bodies of water. (insert requisite Celine Dion joke here) (insert requisite Jon Stewart/Kids in the Hall retort here). To read the full report, which includes a list of the species surveyed, click here (pdf). For a detailed pathogen survey, click here (pdf).

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Now *that's* some Giant Knotweed

Weekend Photoblogging

Now *that's* some Giant Knotweed
Originally uploaded by urtica.

The Giant and Japanese knotweed were running rampant in Seattle when I was there back in 2004.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Small Fish, Big Pond

Environmental Science & Technology Online has this interesting report about a study of food web dynamics and pollution in Lake Michigan. Calumet Harbor is a part of the lake that is dominated by zebra mussels (Dreissena polymorpha) and round gobies (Neogobius melanostomus). Juvenile round gobies love to eat fish eggs as well as crustaceans that live in the lake sediment. Unfortunately, the crustaceans are feeding on the waste of the zebra mussels, and this waste and fish eggs are two of the links in the food chain where PCBs accumulate in high concentrations.

Testing showed that the young gobies have much higher levels of PCBs than the adult gobies or the smallmouth bass that also live in the lake, a detour off the typical path of biomagnification that suggests a change is needed in the policy of recommending that people eat smaller fish to avoid exposure to toxins.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Baltic Avenue

Today is the official debut of the NOBANIS Gateway, from the North European and Baltic Network on Invasive Alien Species. A true regional effort, NOBANIS features a searchable database of several thousand species, with distributional data covering Scandinavia and parts of Northern Europe. It is great to see Europe adding their own invasive species product to what is available online. With countries each entering their own data, there are bound to be a few taxonomic glitches, as I found when I searched for Fallopia japonica and got separate records for var. japonica and ssp. japonica. But this is a solid resource that will only improve over time.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005


This press release from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign describes a recently published study by Suarez et al. concerning the establishment of non-native ants in the US. From about 6 decades of port records, the authors estimated that over 230 species of ants were introduced to the continental US, and of these, 28 species (12%) have become established. Nesting preferences seem to be one of the deciding factors in the ants' success or failure: species that were less picky about their habitat were more likely to become expatriates. Be sure to click on the thumbnails in the press release so you can see the beautiful, full-size macro shots of the ants.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Over the Edge

The Environment News Service has this story about the impacts of invasive plants on Australian rainforest. A study revealed that habitat previously considered to be undisturbed was actually home to such invasives as coffee (Coffea arabica), guava (Psidium guajava), and mango (Mangifera indica). Yes, that's right, some agricultural crops are actually good weeds too. One biologist is hoping that studying the characteristics of the rainforest invaders will reveal clues about what makes them successful, allowing conservationists to target new non-natives before they become a problem.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Abstinence Makes the Vine Grow Longer

Weekend Photoblogging

Abstinence Makes the Vine Grow Longer
Originally uploaded by urtica.

Two words to describe why it doesn't make sense to discount a plant as "non-invasive" just because it doesn't produce seed: Vegetative Reproduction. This new clone of fiveleaf akebia (Akebia quinata), also known as "chocolate vine," has started its new life about three feet below a small patch of its parent plant. There are many new clones along the bottom of this cement wall, and none of them were planted.

I can easily imagine this species spreading from clippings in yard waste. And hey, this is on Nantucket - a big wind could easily break off new pieces and spread them over the island. So who needs seed?

Friday, November 11, 2005

The Alewife Train

Where I come from the alewife (Alosa pseudoharengus) is a native fish, spending most of its life in the Atlantic Ocean and stopping by the local rivers only to spawn. But not too far away, in Lake Champlain, these river herrings are considered invaders. As reported by CNews, biologists now believe that the alewife has established breeding populations in the lake, where the fish have adapted to live their entire lives in freshwater. It is likely that the alewife was introduced to Lake Champlain through its use as bait to catch other fish.

Thursday, November 10, 2005


The ISW likes to bring you invasive species news from around the world. Unfortunately, a language barrier exists that can make it hard for English-speaking readers to appreciate some of this news. As a public service, the ISW is please to bring you this piece of invasive species public outreach from Japan, with translations provided via mouseover:

For the original 3-fold leaflet, provided by the Japanese Ministry of the Environment, go here (.pdf).

Update: For those of you that are oh-so-curious, here is the actual translation of the pamphlet, courtesy of The Almighty Babel Fish and the ISW:

Three Adverse Effects of Introduced Species:

1) They can influence the Japanese Ecosystem

  • They will eat native things
  • They will hybridize with native species that are close relatives
  • They will compete with natives for food (Food may be "resources" - I am not sure if the seedling is sad because it is the only one or because it is being shaded out, but I suspect the former)

2) They can cause harm to human health

  • They will poison or bite people

3) They can influence agriculture, forestry, and the fishing industry

  • They will eat crops and fish

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Otter Pops

How sad is this? People in Eugene Oregon are so used to not seeing river otters (Lutra canadensis) in their wetlands, they though recent sightings must have been nutria (Myocastor coypus). Luckily, as reported by the Corvalis Gazette-Times, it turns out that river otters really have returned to the Amazon Creek, possibly due to recent restoration efforts in Eugene's wetland habitats. Even better news: one was spotted eating a baby nutria ;-).

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Flash Bulbuls

Back in September, the ISW posted about New Zealand's hunt for a pair of red-vented bulbuls (Pycnonotus cafer). Apparently the alien birds are still on the loose, because is reporting that the hunt is still on. Biosecurity NZ wants the public to help track the birds down by reporting any sightings, in the hopes that it will help them identify the birds' local haunts.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Fish Food

According to this press release from the governor of Illinois, the state is planning on eating its way out of an Asian carp invasion. A company called Carp Protein Products LTD has received funding to study whether it is feasible to develop a market for food products made from the carp, which have been present in the Illinois River since the 1990s. The press release makes it sound like the survey has already been completed, so perhaps the $100K will go towards actual product development. "Fish product extract"...Mmmm!!!

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Weekend Blog Blogging

This week's featured blog post is over at Urban Dragon Hunters: "Karner Blue threatened by invasive species?" Click through to read about how the invasive crown vetch may indirectly lead to the decline of the rare Karner blue butterfly. As a bonus, you get to see a beautiful butterfly photo :-). Bonus points to UDH for using scientific names.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Devil nut

Weekend Photoblogging

Devil nut
Originally uploaded by urtica.

Invader or not? The water caltrop (Trapa bicornis) seems to have the potential to grow in the U.S., but somehow it has been surpassed greatly by its congener, T. natans, the water chestnut. A bit of Googling reveals little information about this species' invasive potential. But if I can purchase these nutlets from the local Asian markets and just plop them in water to get new plants, how far away are we from having these show up in a local pond or creek?

Friday, November 04, 2005

Praising Arizona

The Nature Conservancy recently put out this press release about Arizona's new invasive plant list. There are 71 species on the list [.pdf], which was assembled using extensive (and publicly available [.pdf]) criteria and input from the Arizona Wildland Invasive Plant Working Group, made up of more than 25 different organizations. The press release and web site are both quick to point out that the list is meant to be advisory, and has no legal status. It will be interesting to see if the landscaping and horticultural industries step up to the plate with regards to the species on the list that are currently available for purchase and planting.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Tangled Bank is Here!

A new issue of the Tangled Bank is here, hosted by Dr. Charles. Check it out! This time the ISW is in the "Political" section - it always seems hard to categorize my posts.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Weed Wipeout!

Weed Wipeout logo
Perhaps the coolest thing ever to hit invasive species awareness, Weed Wipeout is an online, Flash-based video game where you play a Australian farmer trying to rid your land of nasty invasive plants. You start by stocking up on supplies: limited by the money in your pocket, you can choose from a variety of control methods, from herbicide to controlled burning. To score high, you need to apply the right control methods to each invasive plant. I made it through the first round with only a low-level threat left (darn Paterson's curse!), but I felt like I was a little heavy-handed with the herbicide :-).

Thanks to a member of the Yahoo! group ma-eppc for posting about the Weed Wipeout game.