Sunday, April 30, 2006

Weekend Blog Blogging

This past week in invasive species blogging...

  • In Deference of My Idols finds out that the guy who invented the Honeysuckle Popper is practically a neighbor (do us all a favor, PHSChemGuy, and give him a hug if you run into him!)
  • The GOAT (coolest blog logo ever?) has a story about Oregon going hog wild.
  • Over at Urban by Nature: A Pagan in the City, further proof that nothing can keep Japanese knotweed down...not even a thick coat of asphalt. Time for some Round-Up!

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Weekend Photoblogging

Originally uploaded by urtica.

Earlier this week I happened upon several patches of Wineberry plants (Rubus phoenicolasius) growing in an especially weedy strip of land between parking lot and highway in Hunt Valley, MD. It is easy to recognize this invader by the long, gland-tipped red hairs covering the stems. According to this fact sheet from the Plant Conservation Alliance, Wineberry was introduced introduced to the U.S. in the late 1800s for use in breeding new types of Rubus berries (raspberries, blackberries and the like). As with most thorny plants with juicy, edible fruit, its dispersal into natural areas was both inevitable (birds say "Yum!") and unwelcome (humans say "Ouch!").

Because you are probably wondering, yes, there is a recipe for wineberry wine.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Federal Repository

The Agricultural Research Service published this news blurb about the online digital repository of the National Agricultural Library. The ongoing digitization project currently features reports, handbooks and other documents from as far back as the 1800s, all now free to the public to peruse and download. A search for the term "weeds" brought up more than 500 documents, including the 1909 USDA publication "Plants useful to attract birds and protect fruit" by W.L. McAtee, which notes:

"Besides native shrubs and trees, a number of cultivated species have proved so attractive to birds that they are important as any of the indigenous fruits. An excellent example is the pepper tree (Schinus molle...Others suited to the same climate are the china berry (Melia azedarach), the Russian mulberry (Morus alba tatarica) and the Russian oleaster (Elaeagnus angustifolia)"
Bet there are more than a few wildlife managers who wish we could take those plantings back!

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Meet the Beetles!

Maryland's Invader of the Month for April is a species they haven't even seen yet: the viburnum leaf beetle (Pyrrhalta viburni). First seen in Canada in the late 1940s, the beetle was spotted in New York in the mid-1990s and seems to have been making its way southward since then. Concerned that the beetle has been found in neighboring Pennsylvania, the Maryland Invasive Species Council wants its residents to be on the lookout, and provides contact information to report sightings in that state. Check out the NAPIS website for a history of the North American spread of the beetle, including a map of the U.S. distribution from 2005.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Tangled Bank is here!

A new edition of the Tangled Bank is here, hosted by The Inoculated Mind. Check it out!

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

And the Winner Is!

After much careful deliberation, and consultation with an unbiased second party (Thank you S!), the winner of the ISW 4th Blogiversary contest has been chosen:

Congratulations to Walking the Berkshires for the excellent invasive species post, "Ladybug, Ladybug, Fly Away Home!" The judges determined your post about Asian lady beetles to be the most informative, on-target, and well-written. Please email me with your preferred Weed Geek selection from the ISW Store :-). And readers, be sure to stop by Walking the Berkshires to read a most excellent post.

There were actually several great posts submitted, which made choosing a winner a tough job. You will see those posts featured here over the next week or so. Thank you to all who entered - you have done the world a great service by raising awareness about invasive species issues!

Monday, April 24, 2006

Data Entry

The USGS has been crunching some invasive species numbers, and now they're letting everyone see the results...well, some of the results, anyway. From this page on the Nonindigenous Aquatic Species website, you can see the graphical breakdown of aquatic invader data from the NAS database, for all species, or by taxonomic group or U.S. state. The graphs currently include information about number of species over time, species origin, pathways of invasion, habitat type, and place of origin. The data is almost real-time (updated nightly), which is cool, but one thing that's missing is a quick link to the species list for the graphs and you can get a list of species for any of the data points by clicking directly on the graph. Note that as of right now, the graphical data is limited to aquatic animals only (vertebrates and invertebrates). If you want plant data, you are limited to a standard search of the main database.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Weekend Photoblogging

Check out those nectar disks!!!
Originally uploaded by urtica.

Anyone who thinks Norway maple (Acer platanoides) is still just a street tree in the U.S. should check out Massachusetts right now. The Norways can easily be spotted because of their flower clusters, which form a sickly green aura around the branches (one commenter calls it chartreuse but I am not feeling that kind). Over the decades, Norway maples have managed to find their way not only into suburban wooded areas, but also into true deciduous forests, where they have been shown to inhibit the regeneration of the native forest canopy.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Brazen Pork

There is an interesting opinion piece in the Honolulu Advertiser about invasive species, by columnist Lee Cataluna, referring to this recent report about the feral pig (Sus scrofa) problem in Manoa. In it, she speaks of feral pigs as a problem of Honolulu's urban elite, saying that while they do not want the pigs rooting around in their gardens, they also cringe at the thought of an organized culling. Ms. Cataluna notes that in a more rural area she visited, people just treated the pigs as something to be hunted down, and were even selling the "ono" (delicious) pork as a way of raising funds for the local school.

We typically hear about feral pigs with respect to their ability to damage wild habitats, rather than their negative interactions with people. Though Manoan residents note environmental damage as one of their reasons for concern about the feral pigs, my guess is that their interest has been piqued mostly by the risks to their flower beds and pets.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Bumbling Around

The Australian Hydroponics & Greenhouse Association has taken the next step in their plan to import European bumblebees (Bombus terrestris) into Australia by putting out a 100+ page report on the pros and cons. Well, mainly the pros, actually. If the report's executive summary is any indication, the AHGA is bitter about the whole thing, angry at concerned conservationists and thinks that none of the countries that "enjoy" European bumblebees have had any problems with the insects (Japan, anyone?). The report does raise several valid points about the economic benefits of using bumblebees as pollinators (more and cheaper tomatoes) and the risk of establishment if they are confined to greenhouses. Unfortunately any decent research contained in the report is overshadowed by the disrespectful, unprofessional way in which the evidence is presented.

If you have something to say about this issue, a public comment period is open until June 16th. Interested readers will also want to check out this article from the magazine Practical Hydroponics & Greenhouses.

Thanks to Sandy L. for posting about this story to the ALIENS-L listserver.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Prison Break

BBC News is reporting that South Africa's Robben Island is in the middle of a feral cat controversy. A tourist attraction best known for housing the prison where Nelson Mandela was held for more than twenty-five years, the island is home to more than 130 species of birds. It is also home to a population of feral cats, the offspring of cats kept by prison wardens many years ago.

The cats are not the only mammals causing problems for the island's native birds and reptiles - there are also issues with rat control. This led officials to attempt an innovative option: the Society for the prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) was supposed to capture, sterilize, and re-release the cats on the island to take care of the burgeoning rat population. Unfortunately, the SPCA could only catch eight of the cats, so the original feral cat control plan (shooting them) has recommenced. According to this AP article at AOL News, some confusion remains over exactly which animals are threatening those native birds and reptiles.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Say it, Don't Spray it

Last month the ISW reported on China's plans to manage populations of the invasive fall webworm moth (Hyphantria cunea) in preparation for a "green" 2008 Olympics. Now the People's Daily Online is reporting that three Chinese provinces (Beijing, Tianjin and Hebei) are teaming up to douse over 2500 square miles (667,000 ha) of land with pesticide. This China View article notes that the pesticide is "special" and targets only the fall webworm moth (maybe this is a Bt insecticide?). The aerial spraying is expected to start in May and continue through September.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Iguanas in Fla - Environmental Disaster or Tourism Triumph?

Introduced iguanas (Iguana and Ctenosaura spp.) have been a recognized problem in Florida for several years now, but as this article at Yahoo! News points out, public awareness is apparently just reaching its peak. Now that Lee County is poised to begin taxing residents in Boca Grande to pay for iguana research and control, everyone has got something bad to say about the flower-eating, disease-spreading, feces-dropping reptiles. No one is exactly sure why the problem is especially severe on Gasparilla Island (the location of Boca Grande), where Bostonians like Michael Mavilia go iguana fishing with real rods and fake worms (as if people from New England needed any more press to convince the rest of the U.S. we're a little nutty).

This commentary in the Boca Beacon points out that interest in the iguanas is potentially translating into tourism dollars. If that's the case, maybe they should be taxing visitors, not residents. Target practice, anyone?

Thanks to Allan I. for sending in a link to the story.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Weekend Photoblogging

Who's Your Daddy?
Originally uploaded by urtica.

Came across some odd-looking Japanese barberry (Berberis thunbergii) on a walk the other day...

  • Whorls of leaves with entire (smooth) margins [check]
  • Single thorn in leaf axil [check]
  • Sessile umbels of flowers and fruits...wha?
Looking at the stalks from last season's fruits, I noticed something was different. Japanese barberry has fruits hanging from flower stalks that sprout directly from the axil where the leaves meet the stem. This plant had a single stalk that branched out into two, three, and even four substalks. Almost like common barberry, Berberis vulgaris.

Almost, but not quite. Turns out this is most likely a hybrid between the two non-native barberries we see around New England, Berberis x ottawensis. See the IPANE page for more information.

Friday, April 14, 2006

The Return of Grunge?

Interesting article in the Seattle Post Intelligencer about the appearance of nutria (Myocastor coypus) in Seattle, Washington. Washington was just one of many states where the South American rodents were introduced as part of the fur trade, back in the mid-1900s. Now they have suddenly started popping up around Lake Washington and in other wetland habitats around Seattle, an no one is quite sure why.

The SPI report includes a handy sizing chart, comparing nutria to beaver and rats, and also a link to the Nutria of Union Bay project, an effort by University of Washington students to collect and analyze data using sightings from citizen scientists. Also, don't miss the link at the bottom of the page to the reader comments - some of them are a hoot!

Thursday, April 13, 2006

1275 Posts, and who knows how many stories

Happy me! :-)

It has been a great four years for the Invasive Species Weblog. I have learned a lot and I hope you readers have too. Too busy for a real post right now so instead here are a link to some my faves:

Wednesday, April 12, 2006


Back in February 2003, the ISW posted about an effort to remove the invasive algae Gracilaria salicornia from Waikiki reef in Hawai'i. Over a hundred volunteers joined forces to remove tons of the stuff - by hand. The story made reference to plans to develop a giant vacuum to fight the algae...and now it looks like they've done it. An article in today's Honolulu Advertiser describes the University of Hawai'i's new underwater vacuum, nicknamed the "Super Sucker," that pulls in 200-300 gallons of seawater every minute, and can suck up 800 gallons of Gracilaria per hour. It even has a screen that allows divers to rescue any native critters that get pulled in. I wonder what those volunteers are going to do with all their new free time?

Bonus points to the Advertiser for keeping the algae's scientific name in the article, and quadruple bonus points for allowing us to continue to access an excellent article from back in 2003 without asking us to pay or to fill out an annoying login page.

Tangled Bank is Here!

There's a fresh new edition of the Tangled Bank waiting for your consumption over at Discovering biology in a digital world. Lots of good science writing there - go read it!

Last Chance to Win!

In less than 24 hours the Invasive Species Weblog will officially be celebrating FOUR YEARS of bloggy goodness (that's what, 28 in old-dog-newspaper years?). That means this is your last chance to submit an entry for the Invasive Species Weblog 4th Blogiversary contest, where the ISW invades other blogs and gives out a cool geeky prize for the best post.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Grey Matters

The Toronto Star has an interesting article about the past, present and future of the introduced Eastern grey squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis) in the U.K. and Europe. Coming from Canada, the article gives the perspective on a relationship with a native animal many people consider pests. For more ISW posts about the Eastern grey squirrel invasion (and the associated European decline of the red squirrel, S. vulgaris), click here.

Happy Furry Friday! vs. Squirrel turning white by Steffe
A baby grey squirrel Red squirrel photo by Steffe - look at those ears!!!
Am I the only American who thinks those red squirrels are a heck of a lot cuter than our grey "tree rats"? :-)

Thanks to John T. from Birds Etcetera for sending in a link to the article.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Baked Potatoes

Talk about species-specific: The Rochester Democrat and Chronicle is reporting that a particular strain of golden nematode (Globodera rostochiensis, Ro2) has targeted a potato farm in Livonia, New York. This isn't the first time it has happened to the Guilian Farm, either. Back in the 1960s, the "Ro1" strain of the nematode was causing problems for them, rendering their potato plants useless. Cornell University eventually provided relief by breeding resistant varieties of potato. Meanwhile, a quarantine of the invaded area has kept the nematode confined to the state of New York for forty years.

Unfortunately, there are currently no varieties of potato that are resistant enough against the nematodes to allow the farm to grow a marketable product, and it is going to take five to ten years to breed one that is. In the meantime, perhaps a change of crops is in the Guilian Farm's future.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Weekend Blog Blogging

Just a reminder that the 4th blogiversary of the Invasive Species Weblog is on April 13th...that means you only have 4 days left to submit your entry for the contest!

Elsewhere in the blogosphere, the Natural Lands Trust blog has a blurb about an invasive species walk, bootstrap analysis discusses the latest biocontrol project gone wrong, and Tumeke! rants about New Zealand's lame response to the didymo invasion.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Weekend Photoblogging

Originally uploaded by urtica.

This garlic mustard plant (Alliaria petiolata) is one of several living happily under a small group of pine trees at Faxon Park in Quincy, MA. In fact, this invasive plant perfectly at home in the forest understory, where animals or humans can introduce its seeds while trekking through. In areas subject to flooding, garlic mustard invasion is often quite alarming in its speed and breadth, but in this upland park the species just continues its slow, clumping spread.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Inspect the Unexpected

A few years ago, San Mateo County inspectors recorded more than 2000 different pest organisms from inspections done at San Francisco International Airport and area nurseries. Last year that number was down to 275. But there is no celebration going on amongst the agricultural inspectors - the 80% drop in discovery of introduced species is attributed to a 50% reduction in funding for the inspection program. That's right - according to this report at Inside Bay Area, California has cut funding from $5.5 million per year to only $1 million per year for the entire state. There are currently efforts underway to raise the funding up to $17 million per year, which suggests that even with $5.5 million, the state wasn't getting good coverage. A Discover article from 1993 notes that the medfly (Ceratitis capitata) invasion cost California more than $170 million.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Deep, Deep South

Scoop is reporting that the first ever workshop about "Non-Native Species in the Antarctic" is being held next week in Christchurch, New Zealand. The agenda, which you can view here (.pdf), will cover terrestrial and marine invaders, and how to deal with non-native species introductions within the context of the Antarctic Treaty System. This should be an interesting conference, dealing with a region we don't hear much about. The ISW has reported about Antarctic invaders only once before, back in January 2005.

Thanks to Sandy L. for posting about this on the ALIENS-L listserver.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

The Olive Garden

According to this report from The Age, Australia's olive groves are producing a lot more than cooking oil and pizza toppings - they're producing weeds. Seems the olive trees (Olea europaea) have a tendency to go feral, and scientists are concerned that stricter regulations need to be put into place to prevent the trees from encroaching on native plant habitats. The scientists are recommending that every olive tree be covered with netting, to prevent birds from grabbing the fruits and dispersing the seeds. While there are an estimated 5 million olive trees currently "in production" in Australia, a significant part of the problem is with groves abandoned after an industry collapse way back in the 1800s.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

It Came From eBay

Hey America: If you're looking for invasive plants to garden with, look no further than eBay...

  • For only $10 plus shipping, you can be the proud owner of your very own Tree of Heaven (Ailanthus altissima)!
  • Perhaps a Glossy Buckthorn is more to your liking? If so, the 'Fine Line' cultivar may be for you. It's "non-invasive" of course, and completely sterile! (Well, not completely)
  • Oooo! Horned Poppy (Glaucium flavum)! And the seller says that they are *RARE* - do you think by "rare" she means "invasive"? The species is already a problem on the east coast of North America, maybe the goal is to get it naturalized throughout all of Canada?
  • Saving the best for last: Purple Loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria). Can't ship to Ohio though...lucky Ohio. The buyer might want to check the other 49 U.S. states, since it is certainly illegal to plant purple loosestrife in New Hampshire, Minnesota, Massachusetts, Wisconsin...

Update: Here's another one: Phragmites australis. It's the best invasive "Giant Reed GRASS Bamboo PLANT" you'll ever grow from seed!

Update 4/6/2006: Toren has noted in the comments that the Purple Loosestrife auction linked to above has been removed...perhaps someone reported it. But never fear, if you act within the next 17 hours you can still buy some Purple Loosestrife seed fresh from Ohio.

Interested readers may also want to check out this 2003 ISW post for a list of other invasive plants that have been bought and sold on eBay.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Bee Line

According to this report from the Naples Daily News, it's time for Florida to face facts: The Africanized honeybee (Apis mellifera scutellata) is there to stay. Though also known as the "Killer Bee," it has not lived up to the initial hysteria that led to that name - after more than a decade in Florida, the insect still has not caused much trouble. However, experts are warning Floridians to be cautious around all bees, since the Africanized bees are aggressive, and the only reliable way to tell the difference between those and the calmer European honeybees (Apis mellifera) is by DNA testing. The article provides many details about the origin of the bees and their history, and even provides a bulleted list of things to if attacked. Interesting stuff.

Tip of the virtual hat to Taming of the Band-Aid for inspiring the very first ISW post about Africanized honeybees.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Coming Soon: The ISW's 4th Blogiversary Bash!

April 13th is the 4-year Blogiversary of the Invasive Species Weblog. To celebrate, I'm having a contest:

The person who sends in the best invasive species-related post by midnight EDT on Thursday, April 13th will win his/her choice of one *FREE* item from the ISW Store. Entries may be sent directly to the ISW or posted on a different weblog (just email the link). Off-site entries are only eligible if they are posted between April 2nd and the deadline of the contest given above. While I may post or link to more than one entry, only the person who is judged by me to have submitted the best post will receive the prize.

Send entries to jennforman AT knottybits DOT com.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Weekend Photoblogging

We are the Mighty Shrub Honeysuckles!
Originally uploaded by urtica.

These are one of my least favorite signs of spring :-) - the shrub honeysuckles. One of the first woodies to leaf out in March (maybe tied with multiflora rose). There's a bit of frost damage on the tips of the leaves but something tells me it's not going to make much of a difference to this plant.

The hairy undersides of the leaves (click on the photo to go to a lrager version) indicate this is either Morrow's honeysuckle (L. morrowii) or Bell's honeysuckle (L. x bella), the hybrid between Morrow's and Tatarian (L. tatarica). You'll have to wait until it flowers to know more than that - Morrow's honeysuckle has white flowers while the hybrid Bell's honeysuckle has flowers in various shades of pink.