Sunday, December 31, 2006

Weekend Photoblogging

blackberry removal
Originally uploaded by EdCC HELP Club.

Volunteerism! Here the Edmonds Community College HELP Club in Washington attacks some invasive Himalayan blackberry. No worries - the volunteer in the front is wearing gloves! More photos here.

Friday, December 29, 2006

These Boots Are Made For Algae

Interesting story at about how footwear may be contributing the spread of the invasive freshwater alga known as didymo (Didymosphenia geminata, also known charmingly as "rock snot"). Apparently the felt-soled boots that have become popular among anglers are impossible to clean or disinfect in a way that assures they are algae-free. The cleaning products that anglers normally use cannot penetrate the felt properly, and the felt stays wet for a long time, allowing any embedded algae to survive.

While there is currently no legal regulation outlawing the use of felt-soled boots, freshwater anglers are being urged to switch to foam-soled ones that dry out faster and are easier to clean. As far as I can tell, the advantage of the felt soles is to prevent slipping, but IANAF so anyone who knows for sure should feel free to leave a comment.

I and the Bird...and I

The ISW has a post featured in the current "I and the Bird" carnival, hosted over at Natural Visions. While you're there checking it out, be sure to click over to the post from the Gulf Coast Bird Observatory blog about climate change and bird range expansions.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Olive You Too!

The Chico Enterprise Record has an article, written by the Deputy Agricultural Commissioner of Butte County, California, about invasive olive trees - true olives (Olea spp.), not Russian or autumn olives (Elaeagnus spp.). The Deputy Ag Commissioner notes that abandoned olive groves in California have become vectors for crop pests, like the Olive fruit fly (Bactrocera oleae), and these pests are threatening active olive orchards. The fruits of the abandoned trees are also being dispersed by birds, and some trees have been found in wild areas.

A story featured on the ISW back in April of this year noted that the olive trees in Australia have gone feral as well.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

History Trumps Ecology, Again

According to this report from the Palm Beach Daily News, the town of Gulf Stream, Florida is going to great lengths to maintain the historical look of a road lined with invasive trees. The Australian pines (Casuarina equisetifolia) were planted back in the 1920s as a salt-tolerant barrier to ocean spray and erosion. Unfortunately, the pines have a shallow root system, making them prone to uprooting in high winds, and not so great for erosion control after all.

Determined to keep the look of their road historically accurate, in 1996 the town had part of the road designated a "scenic vista." Now that the original plantings are dying off, the town's Landmark Preservation Commission, noting that "podocarpus is not a suitable replacement," is working to find a way around the state of Florida's ban on Australian pines. One possibility being considered: the grafting of "sterile" cultivars onto Australian pine bases.

I'm guessing the podocarpus reference is to the yew plum pine (Podocarpus macrophyllus), also a non-native species, but not considered invasive. Are any good native species to replace the pines? One potential alternative is sea grape (Coccoloba uvifera), though it may not be able to attain the proper tree stature...and of course it is completely historically inaccurate :-).

Interested readers will want to check out this ISW post about Australian pine removal in the Florida Keys, and this post about historic Paulownia trees in Philadelphia.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Shrimply The Worst

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel is reporting that a new non-native species of shrimp, Hemimysis anomala has been discovered in the Great Lakes. The shrimp, considered native to both the Caspian Sea and the Black Sea, was found in great numbers this past November, near Muskegon port in Lake Michigan. Because that port does not see a lot of international traffic, it is thought that the shrimp were originally introduced elsewhere in the lake - biologists are expecting to find more populations closer to the point(s) of origin.

The article notes that two Canadian researchers predicted (.pdf) the arrival of this very species over eight years ago - it is the 183rd recorded in the Great Lakes, if you're keeping count :-).

Friday, December 22, 2006

Jacked Sparrow

The Western Australia Department of Agriculture and Food is reporting that a man who spotted what he thought was an odd-looking bird ended up helping prevent the establishment of an invasive species in WA. The man reported the finding to his local DAF office, and when biosecurity officers went out to the site, they were surprised to discover a tree sparrow (Passer montanus). The bird, which was captured and removed, is thought to have arrived in WA on a ship at a nearby port. Tree sparrows (.pdf) are native to Eurasia, and while discoveries of individuals in Western Australia are not infrequent, the species has not yet established any feral populations there.

Thanks to Sandy L. for sending this story in to the ALIENS-L listserver.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Cacto Blasters

The San Antonio Express-News is reporting that concerned scientists have put out an alert asking Texas landowners to keep a lookout for the invasive cactus moth (Cactoblastis cactorum) whose arrival in Texas is apparently imminent. The moth, which originates from South America, is a threat to native prickly-pear cacti (Opuntia spp.), and in fact has been used as a biological control in other parts of the world where prickly-pear cacti are considered invasive. Cactus moths were discovered in the U.S. in the late 1980s, and have been spreading both from Florida westward and from Mexico northward. If you're in Texas and you think you've spotted the moths or the caterpillars of this species, you should contact Texas Cooperative Extension (I can't find a related webpage - more information can be found here (.pdf), or call Barron Rector at 979-845-2755).

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Tangled Bank is Here!

There's a new edition of the Tangled Bank up at salto sobrius, and it manages to be both Christmasy and Grinchy in one big happy bite :-). Check it out!

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Iggies Gone Wild!

John T. from Birds Etcetera sent in a link to this story about the invasive iguanas in Boca Grande, Florida. While the ISW has certainly posted about this topic before, the article has a couple of interesting parts that make it worth a read. First is the idea of a using "sustainable harvest" to keep populations of green iguanas (Iguana iguana) and black spiny-tailed iguanas (Ctenosaura spp.) in check. Magnum Reptiles is one trapping company that has committed to taking in wayward iggies and selling them as exotic pets to people in other parts of the country.

The other thing in the article that caught my eye is much more sinister. Another trapping company, Iguana Busters, appeared this past October on the local Florida news to demonstrate how the iguanas they captured are euthanized by placing the reptiles in a freezer. When the interview was rebroadcast on the Today Show, Iguana Busters received more than 100 death threats from irate animal lovers (read more here). Luckily, at least one of the animal-rights activists was sensible enough to have a real conversation with Iguana Busters, and they are working out a way to do what Magnum Reptiles offered: send captured iguanas to people willing to adopt them. NBC2 News has the scoop on the controversy and also a great video, don't miss it.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Snatch and Crab

Crabbers in Puget Sound are feeling crabby about the recent drop in the price of crab legs, and it looks like some introduced crustaceans are to blame. The Seattle Times is reporting that Seattle crabbers cannot compete with the price, numbers and sheer size of the king crabs (Paralithodes camtschaticus) coming out of Russia. These are the same king crabs, intentionally introduced to the Barents Sea, that have gotten attention from environmentalists as they spread and multiplied down the Norwegian coastline. I for one am willing to do my duty by helping eat them out of existence! ;-)

Negative bonus points to the person who suggested this post title is off-color. You all can just go snicker someplace else. Go on now. Git.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Weekend Photoblogging

Fool's Gold
Originally uploaded by MontanaRaven.

Russian olive (Elaeagnus angustifolia) in fruit in Montana.

Be sure to check out MontanaRaven's entire Russian Olive collection - some nice shots there.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Pale Male II And Other Stories

There are pink flamingos in Texas - and I'm not talking about the plastic ones either. This report from the Corpus Christi Caller-Times notes that a pale pink flamingo showed up in January at the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge, disappeared for several months, and recently returned along with another out-of-place flamingo, a dark pink one from the Yucatan. Turns out the pale male is an escapee from the Sedgwick County Zoo in Kansas, home to three dozen African flamingos (more about that here). The article has got some interesting graphics, including photos of the cute pink pair and a map showing the path that brought them to the refuge.

Also in the news is this story from The Journal News about a black swan (Cygnus atratus) appearing at Peach Lake, New York. Black swans are native to Australia, and do not migrate, so this wanderer is assumed to be an escapee from someone's private exotic animal collection.

Interested readers will want to check out Floyd the Utah Flamingo, and also this ISW post about odd birds spotted in the UK.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

New Arrivals

Some interesting emails have been coming in from the USGS NAS Alert System:

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

I Professor

After much paperwork and the jumping through of bureaucratic hoops, approval has gone through for my Invasive Species course at UMass Boston for the Spring 2007 semester. This time around, I will be team-teaching it with Dr. Rick Kesseli, who will be contributing his vast knowledge of population genetics and evolution (from an invasive species perspective of course).

So if you are in the Boston area and you are a grad, advanced undergrad, or a non-degree student with a bio/eco background, check out BIOL 648: Invasive Species: Ecology, Evolution, and Management in the UMass Boston course catalog. Classes will be held Monday and Wednesday evenings, likely from 4:30pm-6pm. For a closer look at what the course will be like, check out the blog from my last class, BIOL 697.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Males - Who Needs 'Em?

The title on this Adelaide Now article pretty much says it all: "Sister geckos doing it for themselves." Researchers studying the invasion of the Asian mourning gecko (Lepidodactylus lugubris) in Australia discovered that all the populations there are female. The female geckos have been reproducing by parthenogenesis, where eggs develop into normal adult females without fertilization by a male. Apparently males do exist but they are rare, and none are known in Australia. With no need for a partner in order to reproduce, the lizards have been reproducing quite rapidly, and researchers are concerned that they are colonizing new areas where native (sexually reproducing) geckos are normally found.

Bonus points to the AAP for using the gecko's scientific name. In case you missed it last week, here's a link to the ISW's an invasive gecko photo gallery.

Monday, December 11, 2006

One Lump Or Two?

NPR has been playing some great invasive species-related coverage lately. This latest one comes from last Friday's All Things Considered, and tells the tale of the feral camels (Camelus dromedarius) that roam Australia. That's right: feral camels - 700,000 of them roaming the outback. What do you do when last century's transportation solution is this century's public nuisance? There's the usual hunting, and some eating of camel meat, but the best thing is definitely the camel races, where jockeys try in vain just to get their camels to run in the right direction. The audio here is really worth the listen. Interested folks might also want to check out this paper describing a study of the negative impacts of feral camels on the Australian desert.

Thanks to monopolist for thinking up the snazzy title :).

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Weekend Blog Blogging

This past week in invasive species blogging:

Friday, December 08, 2006

Win, Lose or Drawdown

The Berkshire Eagle has a story about a city's efforts to control one lake's problem with Eurasian watermilfoil (Myriophyllum spicatum). Pittsfield, Massachusetts is so concerned about the invasive aquatic plants in Lake Onota, they are willing to install a pipeline at the bottom of the lake to drain it six feet, a process known as drawdown. Since the milfoil is found mostly along the shoreline, the hope is that exposing this area to the air will cause all the milfoil to freeze and subsequently die off before the spring brings warmer temperatures. Unfortunately, Pittsfield is taking a gamble: if it snows too much over the next few weeks, the snow will insulate the ground and prevent the freeze from occurring. So far this winter, Massachusetts has been without a major snowfall event...

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Carny Barking

The ISW is featured in two recent blog carnivals: For the best in biology, check out a fresh new edition of the Tangled Bank hosted at Down to Earth. For some creepy-crawly goodness, stop by the latest Circus of the Spineless over at Words & Pictures.

Dingoes Ate Their Babies?

Interesting piece over at Cosmos Magazine (not to be confused with Cosmo!) titled "The Dingo Divide." It's about an effort underway by some researchers to encourage the use of the dingo (Canis lupus dingo) as a biological control for feral cats (Felis catus) and foxes (Vulpes vulpes) that roam Australia. These days, dingoes aren't very well-liked, and are often killed to keep them from attacking herds of sheep and cattle. But scientists say killing dingoes could be harming native biodiversity by reducing the numbers of one of the few predators remaining that can actually kill the foxes and cats. Complicating the situation is the fact that the dingoes themselves were also introduced to Australia, but being as that was about 4000 years ago, they seem to have seniority.

Is this a classic biological control case, or should the dingoes be considered a native and natural part of the Australian habitat? After you've chewed on that for a while, check out this great YouTube video of an invasive red fox grabbing (and then losing) a wallaby. It was both shot and sent in by Tom Rayner - Thanks Tom!

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Fueling Around

Sounds like APM's Marketplace will be doing a piece about a Florida company that wants to grow the invasive grass Arundo donax as a biofuel. I say "sounds like" because I can find no evidence of it on the Marketplace website - minus two points to them, and minus 50 points if the report refers to the plant as "e-grass!"

When the story goes up online I will update this post with a link to the audio. Until then, your homework is to read these two previous ISW posts about farming the giant reed, and the recent statement by the Florida Native Plant Society about Arundo donax (hint: they don't like it!).

Update: Marketplace has posted a transcript along with a link to the audio of the report here. The piece did look at both sides of the issue, but was way too short to provide any real answers: the brush-off of people opposed to the project ("Citizens Opposed to Virtually Everything") was rude, and there was no questioning of the statement that ditch boundaries are an effective control (what happens when there is a flood...or hurricane-force winds?). At least only a passing reference was made to "e-grass" :-).

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Sweet Charity: Update II

The Sweet Charity post from last week has been updated with a few good examples of needy invasive species-related organizations.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Just Say Neigh

Two horse-related stories in the news recently...First we have the Richmond Times-Dispatch reporting on the wild horses (this site calls them ponies) on Assateague Island. There are so many horses there now that their love for native salt marsh cordgrass (Spartina alterniflora) is causing the beach dunes to erode. While the horses are already subject to population controls, with the females given contraceptives, they are still allowed to bear one foal each...which is apparently too much to keep the population stable. The National Park Service is considering moving all the horses off the island permanently. You can read more about the proposed plan here.

Story #2 comes from North Carolina: The Asheville Citizen-Times recently published this piece about wild horses on Carrot Island (unfortunately "Carrot" Island is not the idyllic place you'd think it would be for a horse :-)). The island is part of a state wildlife reserve, and while this would typically mean any feral animals are subject to removal, an outcry by residents of the nearby town of Beaufort back in the 1980s kept that from happening. Eventually, the horses were overrunning the island, prompting the removal of about half of them a few years later. Now they're kept in check with birth control, but park managers are also studying the situation to determine the best target population size.

Thanks to budak for sending in a link to the Carrot Island story.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Weekend Invasive Gecko Photoblogging

I found this photo of a hitchhiking tropical house gecko (Hemidactylus mabouia) on Flickr:

Hemidactylus mabouia
Originally uploaded by green.thumbs.

...and from there I went exploring. Lots of photodocumentation of non-native geckos hanging out in the USA:

A Mediterranean gecko in Texas:

Originally uploaded by Fifi LePew.

And another:

Here's lookin' at you kid
Originally uploaded by The Horned Jack Lizard.

In the wrong place for camouflage:

Indo-Pacific Gecko
Originally uploaded by smccann.

And finally, a beautiful-but-not-native gold dust day gecko (Phelsuma laticauda laticauda) from Hawaii:

Originally uploaded by Max Lewis.

Thanks to green.thumbs, Fifi LePew, The Horned Jack Lizard, smccann and Max Lewis for sharing these photos under a CC license.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Moth Balls: Update

Back in July 2006 the ISW reported about a program at UMass Amherst to develop a biological control for the European winter moth (Operophtera brumata). Short story is that the funding for the program was cut by Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, who indicated that UMass Amherst should pay for it themselves.

Since then, the State Legislature overrode Romney's veto and reinstated the funding, which was promptly cut again in November under the Governor's emergency spending powers. Now the researcher in charge of the project, Joseph Elkinton, is speaking out in this Boston Globe article, noting that he's lost funding he was already starting to spend. The Romney administration noted that since it gave UMass Amherst $30 million "extra" this year, the university should use that money to fund the project. Does this mean they are refusing to acknowledge that the European winter moth is a statewide problem? Will UMass pony up the money for Elkinton to finish his work, or will the incoming Patrick administration reinstate the separate funding? Only time will tell.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Fountain of Truth

NPR's Morning Edition did a story this week about the antioxidant resveratrol, a chemical compound thought to have anti-aging properties. As this older NPR story indicates, resveratrol is found in red wine...but there is an invasive species angle here too. Though it was glossed over in the audio story linked to above, the invasive plants Japanese knotweed (Fallopia japonica) and giant knotweed (Fallopia sachalinensis) are both significant sources of resveratrol, and have the advantage of being much cheaper then red wine grapes. But before you start munching the knotweed along the highway (yikes!) or planting knotweed in your garden (double yikes!), keep in mind that studies have yet to determine the effect of resveratrol on humans, and as such the appropriate concentration and dosage of resveratrol is unknown.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Go Ogle Calendar!

2007 Invasive Species Wall Calendar

Invasive Species Wall Calendars are back! They feature twelve months of North American invaders in glorious full color, from Purple Loosestrife to the Asian Shore Crab. Get yours today, or make your purchase by Dec. 3th to get 20% off from CafePress. All profits from the Invasive Species Weblog store go to charity.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Sweet Charity: Update

Last week I posted a request for places to make charitable donations where the money can be targeted at invasive-species projects. Your response was underwhelming! :-) My search efforts have come up short as well. GreenmanTim suggested contacting the Land Trust Alliance to get a list of local members that are doing invasive species work. Not a bad idea for those of you that are interested.

A recent post on the ALIENS-L listserver by Sandy L., pointing to a new children's book about weeds, gave me an idea: why not purchase invasive species-related books and donate them to libraries? A short list of possible choices:

Have other suggestions?

Greenman Tim has made another good suggestion: Support your local invasive species council, working group, or organization. Here are a few that I know of that encourage donations:

  • Cal-IPC - California Invasive Plant Council
  • IPC NY - The Invasive Plant Council of New York State
  • MA-EPPC - Mid-Atlantic Exotic Pest Plant Council
  • IPAW - Invasive Plants Association of Wisconsin
  • Salem Sound Coastwatch - Donate $20 to get a set of laminated marine invasive ID cards

    As usual, it looks like the invasive plant people are ahead of the pack. Feel free to send in additions to the list!

  • Tuesday, November 28, 2006

    Invasive Species Are Sexy?

    I admit it, I was a little concerned when I noticed a site called linking to the ISW. No worries though - it's all about the flyfishing. Always good to see the angling aficionados taking an interest.

    Update: As an anon commenter points out below, those fly fishers and anglers certainly do care about invasive species issues. Check out this post, this one and this one about the invasive freshwater algae known as Didymo.

    Monday, November 27, 2006

    Cayman Daemons

    CBS News and others are reporting that efforts to control infestations of the pink hibiscus mealybug (Maconellicoccus hirsutus) in the Cayman Islands have ramped up. Over 60,000 parasitic wasps (Anagyrus kamali) known to control the mealybug have been released on Grand Cayman over the past several weeks. The releases are only part of multi-step management plan implemented by the government, which also includes physical controls, public outreach, and legislative changes to regulate the import and export of infected plant stock. As of today the pink hibiscus mealybug is only known on Grand Cayman - it has yet to be detected on its Sister Islands. Interested readers can find out more about the island management plan in this press release.

    Thanks to Xris over at the Flatbush Gardener for sending in a link to this story.

    Sunday, November 26, 2006

    Weekend Photoblogging

    Mystery Rodent 1 cropped
    Originally uploaded by Buck!.

    Degus on the run in the UK? Sure looks like it from this photo - documentation of one of three rodents on the run in South Bristol.

    Thanks to Buck! for sharing the photos and the info, and be sure to check out his whole "Mystery Rodent" set.

    Friday, November 24, 2006

    It's Elemental

    Interesting report over at PressZoom about the ability of an invasive moth to bypass its host plant's chemical defenses. The native Colorado wildflower prince's plume (Stanleya pinnata) takes up excess amounts of the element Selenium and stores it, a process called hyperaccumulation. Such high concentrations of Selenium act as inhibitors of herbivory; native caterpillars tend to avoid prince's plume, and enough nibbling on the plant can lead to the insect's death. But researchers found that the introduced diamondback moth (Plutella xylostella) is not deterred by high Selenium levels, and in fact feeds on prince's plume with no adverse effects. There is even a native, Selenium-tolerant parasitic wasp (Diadegma insulare) that parasitizes the moth. Interested readers may want to check out the abstract for the original research paper.

    Thursday, November 23, 2006

    Did You Do Your Homework?

    The Philadelphia Inquirer has a story about the rearing and delivery of a dozen princess trees (Paulownia tomentosa) to replace those removed from Logan Square. Though the species, which is native to China, is considered invasive (keep reading), the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society decided against replacing the dying and diseased specimens with native species, noting that they "were just too important historically and aesthetically." Better yet, a member of the American Paulownia Association disputes the invasiveness of Paulownia in Pennsylvania, saying that fossil records in the Pacific Northwest indicate the species is native, and that "This tree got a bad rap because people didn't do their homework."

    So, students of invasive plants, did you do your homework? I thought so.

    Update: John over at Invasive Notes has a post on this subject that is definitely worth reading.

    Wednesday, November 22, 2006


    The APHIS of the USDA announced today that it has expanded the quarantine for ash wood and wood products to cover all of Illinois, Indiana and Ohio and part of Michigan. The move is meant to prevent the spread of the destructive emerald ash borer beetle (Agrilus planipennis) that has invaded those four states. Previous quarantines have been limited to just parts of each state. The USDA notes in the press release that unreliable detection methods mean they do not yet have the tools in place to check and approve shipments outside the quarantine zone.

    Found by way of the ALIENS-L listserver. You can view previous ISW posts about the emerald ash borer by clicking here.

    Tuesday, November 21, 2006

    Sweet Charity

    bootstrap analysis had a good post recently about how to make smart charitable donations. This, along with my monthly CafePress check, leads me to ask:

    Does anyone know of reputable organizations in need, where people can donate money that will go directly towards invasive species projects? I am looking for targeted campaigns, not just generic donations to an organization that *might* use it for invasive species management.
    Any suggestions?

    Monday, November 20, 2006

    They're Crumbelievable!

    Keeping with the erosion thread...The World has a feature about Tim Davidson, a graduate student researching an invasive crustacean, Sphaeroma quoianum. It turns out that the tiny creatures are responsible for an increate of the rate of erosion of the shoreline in Coos Bay, Oregon. The isopods, native to Australia and New Zealand, burrow into the mud and chew their way through, breaking up the substrate and causing chunks of the estuary substrate to fall apart. Tim has been studying the distribution and habitat preferences of the crustaceans and has found evidence that they are continuing their spread along the coast of the U.S. For more on his research, check out this poster (.pdf).

    Sunday, November 19, 2006

    Weekend Photoblogging

    Originally uploaded by urtica.

    A common buckthorn leaf (Rhamnus cathartica), one of the few things to still have any green in it so late in the fall.

    Thursday, November 16, 2006

    Muddy Bunnies is reporting that feral rabbits are responsible for a large landslide on Macquarie Island, killing several royal penguins (Eudyptes schlegeli) and destroying a part of their roosting and nesting habitat. The introduced rabbits, which now number over 100,000, are devouring plant life and stripping the soil bare, leaving no buffer when heavy rains come, and causing massive soil erosion. This is just one of several landslides that have occurred on the island this year. Macquarie Island, a Tasmanian State Reserve located halfway between Antarctica and Australia, is the only place in the entire world where royal penguins breed. More information and good photos over at BBC News.

    Wednesday, November 15, 2006

    Great Scots!

    The Scotsman is reporting that Scotland is preparing to make it illegal to release 150 different non-native plant and animal species into the wild. The government is seeking to amend the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 to add these species to a short list that is already there, and would also list 21 of them as illegal to sell, own or trade. The Scottish government has produced a consultation report on the subject which is now open for comments. If you want to check out the actual lists of proposed species, you'll have to download the Word doc here. Looks like the lists were compiled by "expert opinions" - more than 400 of them - rather than any type of species risk assessment. It will be interesting to see if every single species makes it to the final version of the list.

    Be sure to scroll down to the end of the Scotsman article, there is a great comment thread going on down there!

    Tuesday, November 14, 2006

    When did the USDA hire MacGyver?

    The headline of the National Geographic News article says it all: "Alien Beetles Tracked with "Ray Guns," Dental Floss." Hoping to better understand the ways that invasive Asian longhorn beetles (Anoplophora glabripennis) spread, U.S. researchers traveled to China and studied them on their home turf. To track dispersal patterns, the scientists tied tracking tags (transponders) onto the beetles using dental floss, then used a harmonic radar (.pdf, the "ray gun" part) to follow the tags. Turns out the average beetle only moved about 10 feet per day, though the researchers note that this likely increases during breeding season. I wonder whether the dispersal patterns differ in the places where the beetles have been introduced?

    Monday, November 13, 2006

    Doctored Fill

    With all the talk about ballast water regulation, why is no one talking about banning contaminated fill? This article in The Post-Star points out one of the big oversights of public works departments across the U.S. (or maybe the world? I'm not sure) - transport of soil contaminated with invasive plants propagules (seeds, rhizomes, bulbs, etc.). In many cases those responsible for the transport just aren't aware of the dangers of doing this, in other cases they may even be unaware of what is in their dirt piles. Luckily for Warren County, New York, their highway departments are getting educated about which invasive plants to look for and how to deal with them when they're discovered. Now what about all those private construction and earth-moving companies? This one website will set you up with a partner whether you want to get rid of fill or receive some, and there are lots of classified ads out there too - is anyone in the U.S. regulating this?

    If you own a conscientious company that deals with soil transport, feel free to chime in here and let us know what it takes to do it right.

    Friday, November 10, 2006

    New in the Literature

    It has been way too long since I did one of these...

    Also, be sure to check out the November 2006 issue (v. 94 no. 6) of the Journal of Ecology, featuring an invasive species section with five articles.

    Thursday, November 09, 2006

    Rapa Movie

    Don't despair if you missed your chance to see Laura Boyd's award-winning film "Caballo Loco on Easter Island" at the 2006 American Conservation Film Festival. The 20-minute short, about Jonathan Arzt's investigation of the poisoning of horses on Easter Island, is available for internet viewing over at the TERRA blog.

    If you want to know the ending, watch the film or read the spoiler below. If you'd like to learn more about the problem on your own, you should check out this interactive educational site from UC Davis that walks you through the investigative process.






    ***Spoiler Space***





    The culprit, as if you couldn't guess by the fact that I am posting this story, was Crotalaria, a plant that was introduced in a failed effort to control soil erosion on the island.

    Thanks to John R. from Don Watcher for suggesting this story.

    Wednesday, November 08, 2006


    Arkangel is reporting that animal rights activists have released more than 1500 American mink (Mustela vison) from a fur farm in Spain. This is just one in a series of recent "liberation" projects designed to bring attention to the evils of the fur industry...this Olive Press article describes an incident involving three mink farms where over 15,000 minks were released.

    American mink are now introduced and considered invasive in several parts of Europe, including the areas of Spain where the most recent releases occured. Does the need to have a captive mink "enjoy freedom" really outweigh the threat to native wildlife?

    The article notes that few of the mink left the boundaries of the ranch they were being kept on once they were freed. Maybe somebody already told them - there is nowhere to run, you're on a different island!

    Tuesday, November 07, 2006

    Cycadian Rhythms

    Cycads in Guam are dying, and it may be that Florida is partly to blame. According to this report from the Miami Herald, an insect known as Asian cycad scale (Aulacaspis yasumatsui) that was accidentally introduced to Florida along with non-native cycads has spread to other parts of the world, and now threatens native cycad species in Guam as well as India. Florida recognizes that it will be next to impossible to eradicate the scale insects, and is instead concentrating on managing the problem and preventing their spread via exports. Something to think about next time you're wondering about why the importation of "harmless" non-native species is not necessarily risk-free.

    Triple bonus points to whoever registered for the Miami Herald's bugmenot account using "" ;-D

    Monday, November 06, 2006

    Come to Barbados!! No no, not you! published a "Snail Alert" this week, warning the citizens of Barbados that they need to be more vigilant about ridding the island of the giant African land snail (Achatina fulica). A government scientist has spoken out about the snail, noting that if Barbadians leave it up to the Ministry of Agriculture, they could be in for a future of abandoned farmland and rat lung worms (Angiostrongylus cantonensis). While the snails in Barbados have so far been free of the parasitic lung worms, which can attack humans, worm infested giant African land snails are already known on several Caribbean islands, meaning the arrival of this secondary hitchhiker is likely unavoidable.

    Sunday, November 05, 2006

    Weekend Photoblogging

    a surprised orange toad
    Originally uploaded by fuzzy blue.

    Excellent nighttime shot of a cane toad (Bufo marinus) on the island of Maui, one of many in the grass that evening.

    Shared very generously by fuzzy blue under a Creative Commons license.

    Saturday, November 04, 2006

    More Fishy Musings

    Did anyone catch the "black market fish" subplot on this week's 30 Rock? Tracy Morgan's character has Kenneth the Page go get him an illegal fish from a seedy location in New York City (graffiti-covered alleyway, back entrance, unseen seller with chatter sounding vaguely Asian in the background). Pretty sure that was a lionfish (Pterois volitans) or a related species, not banned to my knowledge but of certain newfound notoriety due to its escape into the wild. Kenneth hands the bag over to Tracy who promptly dumps his prized possession into a tank of freshwater goldfish. Hee.

    Friday, November 03, 2006

    Koi Blog Wondering

    Back in July the ISW posted about a restaurant owner who was in trouble for keeping koi (Cyprinus carpio) in a tank in his place of business (Maine banned the possession of koi several years ago). Cuong Ly appealed the confiscation of his koi, and now this story in the Morning Sentinel says that he can keep the fish, but only if he 1) keeps them at home or hides them from public view 2) implants microchips in them so that Maine Wardens can always verify that he is not secretly buying new fish to replace the old ones and 3) notifies the state within 24 hours after any one of the koi dies.

    The fact that the state will let Ly keep the fish but not put them on public display makes it seem like the issue is about more than just keeping koi out of Maine's waterways. I can't see how that part of the decision makes any sense, since one of the reasons Ly had the fish in his restaurant was for public viewing. I agree with one commenter who suggests that Ly be allowed to keep the koi in their old home but with a sign or the permit clearly displayed (how about some free public outreach pamphlets?).

    Ly can file another appeal but hasn't decided yet if he will pursue the issue further.

    Thursday, November 02, 2006

    Last Chance To Carp

    If you care about whether silver carp (Hypophthalmichthys molitrix) and largescale silver carp (H. harmandi) are banned in the United States, you've got until this Monday, Nov. 6th, to tell someone about it. The Union of Concerned Scientists recently sent out an email alert saying that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has once again proposed adding new carp species to the list of injurious species banned from interstate transport under the Lacey Act. The UCS notes that silver carp have twice before come up for consideration for this ban, and they are hoping that hearing from scientists well-educated on the subject will help sway the FWS this time around (uh, well...).

    Update: Thanks to robyn for pointing to the U.S. Draft Asian Carp Management and Control Plan. Comments are welcome on the plant through December 26th.

    I've pasted the UCS email below:

    Tell US Fish and Wildlife Service to Ban Two Asian Carp Species

    ISSUE: The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) proposes to ban further imports and interstate shipments of silver carp and largescale silver carp by adding them to the list of "injurious animals" whose movement is restricted by the Lacey Act. It is collecting comments and information now.

    ACTION: Submit comments, adding at least a brief section that customizes it to your own expertise and experience.

    MAIN MESSAGE: Silver carp and largescale silver carp pose an unacceptable risk to native fish, mussels, and other wildlife; to critical habitat; and to the structure of aquatic communities. The FWS should immediately ban further import and interstate movement of all live forms of these fish.

    DEADLINE: Comments must be submitted on or before November 6, 2006. Email, fax, and mail directions are below.

    *** THE ISSUE ***

    The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) is proposing to ban the import and interstate transport of all forms of silver carp (Hypophthalmichthys molitrix) and largescale silver carp (Hypophthalmichthys harmandi), plus each of their various hybrids. By listing these species as "injurious" under the Lacey Act, no live animal, gamete, viable egg, or hybrid could be imported or moved between states, except in limited circumstances and with a permit. (States regulate intra-state movements of fish so silver carp already within state boundaries would not be affected.)

    This listing has been considered for several years. In 2002, twenty-five members of Congress' Great Lakes Task Force petitioned the FWS to list three species of Asian carp, including silver carp. A larger group repeated this request in 2004, asking for a decision "soon." The proposed rule is FWS' response.

    Silver and largescale silver carp are relatives of several other invasive Asian carp: the grass carp (Ctenopharyngodon idella), which escaped from holding ponds in 1963 and has since become established in 46 US states; bighead carp (Hypophthalmichthys nobilis), which was first found in the wild in the 1980's, continued to escape from aquaculture facilities in the 1990's, and is now the most common large fish in the lower Missouri River; and black carp, which has been captured in the wild since 2003 and, with its specialized diet of freshwater mussels, is a significant threat to this group, which is among the most imperiled of US species.

    Silver carp, native to eastern Asia, were imported into the United States in the early 1970s, probably to control algae in sewage lagoons or commercial aquaculture ponds. Soon thereafter, fish had escaped and also been moved to new locations. Now silver carp have been collected throughout the Mississippi River Basin, in 16 states, and Puerto Rico. They continue to spread. Also, a number of means exist to move these fish to river systems and lakes where they do not now exist, e.g., as baitfish and via live food markets. Biologists are concerned that these carp will compete with native species for food and habitat; carry serious diseases to native species; affect water quality; damage boats and equipment; hurt boaters; and have other negative impacts. Silver carp are large (up to 1.2 m. and 50 kg), long-lived, with high fecundity.

    Largescale silver carp are similar, and also native to eastern Asia. This species is not known to be in the United States yet and, because of its narrower biological tolerance, it may not become established except in subtropical and tropical areas of Florida, Hawaii, and Texas. In these places, its impacts could be like those of silver carp. However, largescale silver carp hybridize with silver and bighead carp and hybrids tolerate temperate regions.

    FWS' slowness in responding to the 2002 congressional petition prompted a bipartisan group of Great Lakes' lawmakers to introduce legislation in 2005. The Asian Carp Prevention and Control Act (S. 1402 and H.R.3049) would bypass FWS' administrative procedures and add these and other carp species to the Lacey Act immediately. These bills are unlikely to pass in the little time remaining in the current Congress; we do not know if they will be reintroduced in 2007.

    Generally, UCS prefers that federal agencies promptly make the scientifically-based regulatory decisions for which they have authority. However, FWS has added only several new groups to the Lacey Act in the past decade. We would like Congress to play its own role: passing broad, comprehensive, and more stringent invasive species law. However, UCS will work with Congress to ban Asian carp if FWS fails to act. Before we do that, though, we want to see whether FWS can be swayed by a strong set of scientists' comments. Failure to act quickly in the face of strong scientist support would provide more evidence that "dirty lists" of banned species are no basis for sound federal invasive species policy.

    *** THE ACTION ***

    -- With minimal time, you can send the main message and a couple sentences about your interest and expertise.

    -- With somewhat more time, you also can describe your experience with invasive species and add the supplemental messages, in your own words.

    -- With a larger investment of time, you can address one of more or the questions below, too.

    The FWS has asked for answers to the following questions. (For more detail, see Federal Register, below.) The connection between the proposed regulations and these questions is not self-evident and FWS has not responded to UCS' request for clarification. The agency has already received a risk assessment from federal scientists (Kolar, et al. 2005) and completed its own environmental assessments (USFWS 2006a,b). Each documents that these species are "injurious" and high risk. Nevertheless, if you have access to state information, including an answer to one or more questions will ensure that your comments are among those most seriously weighed.

    1) What regulations does your state have on these two species? [see Table 10 and pages 117-121 in Kolar, et al., 2005] 2) How many silver carp are present? 3) What would eradication cost? [see pages 14-117 in Kolar, et al., 2005, re lack of options] 4) What are recovery costs for native fish? What state-listed species could by harmed? 5) What is the economic value of commercial fisheries that could be harmed? 6) How many fishermen sell live silver carp? 7) What are annuals sales and landings of silver carp? 8) What is the consumer surplus or revenue from native or higher-value fish? [See US Census Bureau, 2002, for your state.] 9) What is the value of the baitfish industry?

    -- MAIN MESSAGE: Silver carp and largescale silver carp pose an unacceptable risk to native fish, mussels, and other wildlife; to critical habitat; and to the structure of aquatic communities. The FWS should immediately ban further imports and interstate movement of all live forms of these fish.

    -- TIMING: Comments must be submitted on or before November 6, 2006


    How to submit comments:

    E-mail: Include "RIN number 1018-AT29" in the subject line of the message.

    Web: Federal eRulemaking Portal:

    Fax: (703) 358-1800.

    Mail: Chief, Branch of Invasive Species U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 4401 North Fairfax Drive, Suite 322 Arlington, VA 22203

    -- LET US KNOW: Please send us an email message that tells us what action you took. Send to:


    -- The detailed information solicited in this FWS proposal is important and useful. However, the materials already available to FWS have found that these species are "injurious." Lacey Act listing should not be delayed to collect additional information.

    -- According to the FWS' Draft Environmental Assessment, as many as 65 of the 184 fishes and mussels on the Federal List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife "would likely be impacted by the introduction and establishment of silver carp." The FWS is responsible for protecting these species, especially ones that inhabit waters where silver carp are not yet present. This responsibility makes Lacey Act listings essential.

    -- Generally, FWS should act more quickly and more often in adding species to the list of injurious fish and wildlife. The Lacey Act is not an effective tool for preventing new invasions when FWS requires more than four years to act. If FWS' listing process cannot be streamlined, the agency should lay out a plan to overhaul its regulations completely, with stronger prevention in mind.


    -- Federal Register, Vol. 71, No. 171, Sept. 6, 2006.. Online at: (pdf) USFWS Proposed Rule.

    -- Kolar, C.S., D.C. Chapman, W.R. Courtenay, Jr., C.M. Housel, J.D. Williams, D.P. Jennings. 2005. "Asian Carps of the Genus Hypophthalmichthys (Pisces, Cyprinidae) - A Biological Synopsis and Environmental Risk Assessment," Interagency report to the US Fish and Wildlife Service. 175 pages. Online at: (pdf) A detailed survey, based on peer-reviewed literature.

    -- Nico, L. 2006. "USGS Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Database, Gainesville, FL." Online at: A factsheet on silver carp.

    -- US Census Bureau. 2002. 2001 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation. Online at: National summary and 50 state reports.

    -- US Fish and Wildlife Service. 2006a. "Draft Environmental Assessment for Listing Silver Carp (Hypophthalmichthys molitrix) as Injurious Wildlife under the Lacey Act." USFWS/DEQ/BIS. Arlington, VA. USFWS/DEQ/BIS. Arlington, VA. Online at: (pdf)

    -- US Fish and Wildlife Service. 2006b. "Draft Environmental Assessment for Listing Largescale Silver Carp (Hypophthalmichthys harmandi) as Injurious Wildlife under the Lacey Act." USFWS/DEQ/BIS. Arlington, VA. Online at: (pdf)

    Wednesday, November 01, 2006


    Can't believe I missed this Halloween posting opportunity...The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services recently released a Public Service Announcement warning citizens about the Mexican red rump tarantulas (Brachypelma vagans) that have established in that state. The tarantula, native to Central America and Mexico, was first discovered (.pdf) in St. Lucie County over a decade ago, and is thought to have been introduced via the pet trade.

    You can view the PSA via this page (wmv format). I couldn't get the link to work but the transcript (.pdf) sounds pretty amusing. Interested readers will also want to check out this response to a proposed tarantula ban in Florida, posted on the American Tarantula Society's website.

    Tuesday, October 31, 2006

    Barnacle Girl

    The University of Florida News is reporting that a Pacific Ocean barnacle has found its way to the Florida coast. Megabalanus coccopoma is a big, sharp-shelled crustacean that can grow "at least as large as a woman’s palm" (don't ask me where they got that measurement from). Biologists note that the barnacles are expected to be a fouling hazard for boats, but it is so early in the invasion process that the impact of this species is not yet clear. While the species was just discovered in Florida for the first time this summer, records are also known from Georgia, Texas and Louisiana.

    Monday, October 30, 2006


    VietNamNet Bridge is reporting that the South American aquatic weed Salvinia molesta may be gaining a foothold in Vietnam. Apparently the floating plant has been used for some time in water gardens in Ho Chi Minh City. Now biologists are concerned that the species will escape from cultivation into local water well they should be, as Salvinia molesta is already considered invasive in many other other parts of the world.

    Via a forward from the FICMNEW listserver.

    Sunday, October 29, 2006

    Weekend Blog Blogging

    This past week in invasive species blogging:

    Saturday, October 28, 2006

    Weekend Photoblogging

    11 novembre 2005 14:05:45
    Originally uploaded by *Swift.

    An albino nutria! In France! I hope these South American beasties haven't become a boutique item in Paris! :-)

    All joking aside, it is unfortunate that the "ragondin" have become established in France.

    Thanks to *Swift for posting this excellent photo under a Creative Commons license.

    Friday, October 27, 2006

    If Pigs Could Die

    The Mercury News and others are reporting that the recent E. coli outbreak that contaminated spinach crops in California may have been spread by feral pigs (Sus scrofa). A dead pig recently discovered at a ranch in the Salinas area was found to have the exact strain of E. coli in its gut as the one found in bags of contaminated spinach this past August. Investigators note that there is evidence that the feral pigs have been destroying the fencing that surrounds the ranch land. It remains to be seen whether pigs actually caused the contamination or were just exposed to it themselves, but so far the dead pig is the only genetic match that has been found for the bacteria.

    Thursday, October 26, 2006

    Kelp Me Kelp You

    The Monterey County Herald is reporting that there is a renewed volunteer effort to remove brown kelp (Undaria pinnatifida) from Monterey Bay. The Asian kelp was first seen in the Bay over five years ago, and volunteers were first enlisted to search for and manually remove it back in 2002. It sounds like the current plan is more about keeping the kelp from spreading even further, rather than attempting to reduce its range - the algae is now so abundant that there are fears it will spread from the Bay into the open ocean. This site provides more details of the management efforts.

    Wednesday, October 25, 2006

    Seek And Ye Shall Find

    A recent upgrade to FirstSearch, the U.S. government's search engine, has added an function that lets you search for images across many different federal agency websites. As expected, given the number of agencies dealing with invasive species issues, there are plenty of hits for the vocabularly you regularly see here at the ISW: 2624 hits for "invasive" and 263 for "invader," but unfortunately the search is pulling only the "top" 100 or so from each source and gives you no way of changing that. Out of that, though, there are some gems, like this cartoony one:
    invasive species cartoon graphic from Nevada's Bureau of Land Management

    and this retro one:
    retro spaceship invader graphic from SeaGrant IL-IN

    The link to the doc above was dead, but I did some sleuthing and found that it belongs to a wonderfully illustrated curriculum guide from SeaGrant Illinois-Indiana, called "The Great Lakes Invasion" (.pdf).

    Now if they could just add some Creative Commons licensing like Flickr, I'm sure a lot of people would find these images very useful.

    Link via the always brilliant Mr. Sun, who shamelessly stole it from lifehacker and made it much funnier.