Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Bug Blogging

Have you checked out this month's Circus of the Spineless? It features the best in insect and other invertebrate blogging, including a post about European pine sawflies and another about globe-trotting nudibranches. It's hosted over at the Burning Silo, which is apparently located on a Magick Canoe :-).

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Bye Bye Birdies

The Telegraph has published an interesting report about the impact of the American grey squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis) on songbirds in Britain. A recent study indicated that songbird populations are declining in part due to nest predation in areas with dense populations of grey squirrels. This may be interesting twist to the story, since for decades, dwindling songbird numbers in Britain were attributed to habitat loss and pollution. It's too bad the report doesn't seem to be available online, since the article is a little fuzzy about the details (such as whether the predation was directly attributed to grey squirrels, or whether there was just a correlation between squirrel density and nest predation!).

Monday, May 29, 2006

Sap Suckers?

CBC News is reporting that invasive Norway maples (Acer platanoides) may be replacing the famous sugar maple forests of Mount Royal, Montreal. A biologist surveying the forest categorized the maples by age class, and noted that while older trees are predominantly sugar maple, trees less than a decade old are three times more likely to be Norway maples. The planting of Norways as street trees and to replenish the forest is thought to be at least partly to blame. One of the unfortunate outcomes of the spread of Norway maples into the Mount Royal forests is that the autumns of Montreal are now lacking in the glorious reds of the sugar maples - Norway maple leaves turn yellow.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Weekend Blog Blogging

This past week in invasive species blogging:

  • The Thinking Mother blogs about garlic mustard and homeschooling.
  • Jonathan over at Conservation Value is sad about SOD.
  • Paul A. Miller has something to say about the emerald ash borer and where the U.S. government's gone wrong in setting policy to manage the invasive beetle. Also, be sure to check out his previous post on the subject from earlier this month.
  • Taming of the Band-Aid blogs about an invasive mole cricket in Florida, the biocontrol wasps that like to lay eggs in them, and the non-native plants introduced to bolster populations of the introduced wasp. Hmm...this reminds me of that Simpsons episode...bring out the Chinese needle snakes already :-)!

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Weekend Photoblogging

Originally uploaded by urtica.

Earlier this week I had the opportunity to go on a field trip to a Cape Cod beach, where the tide pool was filled with invasive creatures (you all were getting bored of the terrestrial plant photos, weren't you? :-)).

This is the colonial tunicate known as Didemnum, first discovered invading Georges Bank back in 2003. Back then they were calling it Didemnum vexillum but scientists have since called the taxonomy into question. In the past several years Didemnum has been found along both the east and west coasts of the U.S. and Canada, and the consensus is that it has spread quite rapidly.

Didemnum prefers hard substrates, and will grow over most anything in its path. The photo you see here is the underside of a rock in the tide pool - the tunicate colony starts on the bottoms of rocks and spreads upward.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Blast from the Past

This week's ARS News has a story about Asa Fitch, an entomologist from the 19th century. Seems Asa kept very detailed notes on aphids, including the non-native cabbage aphid (Brevicoryne brassicae) and Liosomaphis berberidis. He recorded everything from morphological descriptions to detailed explanations of their behavior. Best of all, the Systematic Entomology Laboratory (SEL) has put the notes and drawings online, all 800 pages of them! Note that the taxonomy Fitch was using is different than what exists today - try looking under genus Aphis" for both of the species mentioned above.

I And The Bird Blogging

A new edition of the "I and the Bird" is here, and the ISW was lucky enough to get in on the action when the carnival was being hosted over at Rigor Vitae. That means everybody gets illustrated - check out our monk parakeets! They look like they're having a blast up on those power lines.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Wolf Web Secret Message

Hey, if your name is Sweden or waffleninja (and who would not own up to such nicks?) or you know anything about this Japanese "don't dump your pets" sign someone posted a photo of on the Wolf Web, drop me an email. I want to know what that sign says...and why the fish has a band-aid on :-).

Update 05/28/06: Thanks to monopolist for some rough translation - it seems the fish is saying "Do not release fish in this reservoir lake!" I would still like to know more about this sign, if anyone has information.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Tangled Bank is Here!

Did you catch the latest edition of the Tangled Bank, hosted over at Science and Politics? It's got two invasive-species links in there, including the one from the ISW. Enjoy!

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Pop Horticulture

The Pensacola News Journal is reporting that Northern Florida is in the middle of a popcorn tree explosion. Seedlings of the invasive popcorn tree, also known as the Chinese tallow tree (Sapium sebiferum), have been, well, popping up all over the Gulf Coast. The article speculates that the habitat disturbance caused by last season's hurricanes may be partly to blame for the recent population growth, due to the inability of the tallow trees to withstand the winds. Broken branches would have become a part of many debris piles, spreading seeds in the process. A little Google digging indicates the jury is still out regarding the reasons behind the spread of this species. Regardless, the popcorn tree seedlings have arrived, and it remains to be seen whether they can gain a stronger foothold in the already highly invaded Florida ecosystems.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Dining Out

MIT Sea Grant recently created a pamphlet to educate people about the dangers of releasing live seafood into the ocean and improperly disposing of seafood waste. Aimed at preventing future introductions of invasive fish, shellfish and pathogens, the pamphlet notes the consequences of such acts and lists several examples of invasives that were introduced through those vectors. The best part about the pamphlet, which can be downloaded in .pdf form, is that it is available not only in English, but in Chinese, Khmer, Korean, Spanish and Vietnamese. Fresh and live seafood is an important part of many different cultures, and not everyone catching it, selling it and eating it knows English, so it makes sense for a resource like this to be made avaiable in as many languages as possible.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Weekend Blog Blogging

This past week in invasive species blogging:

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Weekend Photoblogging

Down, but not out for the count
Originally uploaded by urtica.

Last month I chopped two of my dwarf burning bush plants (Euonymus alata var. Compacta) down as far as my stem cutter would allow, and planted native chokeberry (Aronia arbutifolia) in its place. I left the burning bush to see what would happen (Last year I similarly attacked one in our woods and then squirted Round-up on the cut stems. While the plant died, I was never really positive that it was the Round-up that really killed it.).

Now, over 4 weeks later, as you can see in this photo, these plants are raring to grow. The Round-up is coming out as soon as Massachusetts gets a nice sunny and wind-free day, which I am sure will happen some time before July :-).

A ban on importing burning bush into Massachusetts goes into effect this July, and the sale of this species will be banned after Jan. 1, 2009. As of right now, all cultivars and varieties are included in this ban.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Hamped Up

Earlier this week, the ISW blogged (and maybe even ranted a little) about an attempt in the New Hampshire legislature to circumvent a ban on invasive plants that's been many years in the making.

I am now pleased to report that, according to the Portsmouth Herald, the offending provision has been killed. The best part is that it sounds like smart nursery owners may have had something to do with the decision. Not only do several of them speak out in the Herald article, but as one senator put it, "We heard from people that we had sidelined a well established study process." Nice job!

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Prim and Improper

ARS Newslink has posted a report about efforts to stop the spread of water primrose (Ludwigia spp., incl. L. hexapetala) in the U.S. Scientists stationed in the plants' native home of South America are currently working to find biological control options that they hope will keep the plant in check. One reason the water primroses are getting attention is that infestations create patches of standing water in lakes, rivers and streams - that's prime habitat for mosquitos, and a breeding ground for mosquito-borne diseases. You can read more about the water primrose invasion in California in this 2003 ISW post.

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

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Mussel Mania

CBS News, among other sources, is reporting that zebra mussels (Dreissena polymorpha) have been eradicated from a quarry in Virginia. Eradication is a pretty strong word, but state officials seemed confident in their announcement, made earlier this week, noting that this is the only known successful eradication of the invasive mollusks. How did they do it? Turns out they dosed the entire quarry with potassium chloride, a molluscide. While people are likely to be skeptical about claims of eradication, the tests that were done have shown a zebra mussel death rate of 100%, and the effects of the potassium chloride are expected to last thirty years. However, this kind of treatment is unlikely to be feasible in natural water bodies where native mussel species are also present.

A page from the Virginia Department of Game & Inland Fisheries provides more information about the project, including this environmental impact report (.pdf). The ISW first reported on the Milbrook Quarry zebra mussel invasion back in March 2003, and then again in November 2003.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Book Review: Invasive Plants of the Upper Midwest

The book "Invasive Plants of the Upper Midwest" by Elizabeth J. Czarapata is an ambitious effort: a single book for invasive plant identification, life history, and control methods. Does it succeed? In most cases, yes. The ISW deems it to be a useful reference tool for land managers, or for anyone in the Midwest that is dealing with invasive plants.

The beginning of the book consists of the typical introductory material for virtually any invasive species document: the definition of an invasive species and how these species cause economic and ecological impacts. But then things get more interesting, with a section on how to deal with skeptics that resist invasive plant management, and then a nice introduction to control technologies. I say "introduction" even though this section is 20 pages long, since it is meant to be a comprehensive review of mechanical, physical and chemical control techniques, rather than a step-by-step manual of explicit instructions. Still, there is a significant amount of detail there, and I think anyone weighing the pros and cons of different controls will find this section useful.

The meat of the book is the guide to invasive plants, divided into three sections: Invasive Plants of Major Concern, Minor Concern, Potential Problem Species, followed by a section on dealing with weedy Native Plants. Within each section the species are organized by growth form. The plants in the Major Concern section seem to have the most space devoted to them, sometimes several pages each, while the Potential Problem species have just a few paragraphs. Following the profiles, there is a section discussing educational outreach, plus several appendices listing additional invasive species resources.

There are about 125 species profiled (I would like to give an exact count but the book does not seem to provide it, and the layout makes it difficult to count). An Appendix in the back lists the species by scientific name and gives their "invasiveness" category, but not all species in the table have a profile; indeed, some species in that table are not even listed in the index.

The profiles seem well-written, and I really like that each one has a section noting the best control options for the species. I also like the practical sense the author had of lumping together congeners (same genus, different species) that have similar growth habits and management techniques. The photos are decent and there are several great shots showing species incursions.

The large format of this book (8.5" x 11") means that it is not something you are going to want to take with you into the field. I received the paperback version, which is dense, and the soft cover makes it floppy and unwieldy. The layout could also benefit from a radical makeover - several chapters have a 2.5" margin from the spine of the book. The intent of this white space seems to have been to fill it with photos and boxes highlighting facts about the plants. Unfortunately there are very few boxes or photos in there - it really is just wasted white space. I think the book would have been better off if it were 8" tall and thicker. Perhaps the hardcover is better in this regard, but since it retails for $60 (vs. $27 for the paperback) few people may go for it.

The species list in Appendix E is the only thing I truly found fault with in this book. It does not give any details about the criteria used to determine which species got put into which invasiveness categories. The authors of the appendix are listed, and it is noted that the list is not comprehensive and has no legal status. That's fine, but I think invasive species ecologists have all gotten to the point where they recognize that lists with no criteria are going to have little value in the real world.

However, none of that should keep you from buying this book if you live in the Upper Midwestern U.S. (Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio, and Wisconsin). In fact, browsing through the species profiles again, I see species commonly found throughout the Midwest and Northeast U.S., and I expect that I will be turning to this resource in the future for its control recommendations.

I was saddened to learn upon reading the introduction of this book that the author of "Invasive Plants of the Upper Midwest" passed away before the book was published. It is likely that this book was a labor of love for Ms. Czarapata as well as for several other people that are not recognized as authors here. I commend them on their efforts.

This review is based on a complimentary copy of the book that I requested for the purposes of review. If you are interested in buying a copy, you can purchase it from the University of Chicago Press, or from Amazon (at a discount of $51 for the hardcover, or a staggering $17 for the softcover!!!)

Monday, May 15, 2006

Live Free or Die Trying

New Hampshire Public Radio is reporting that lawmakers are attempting to reverse a ban on certain invasive plants in that state. The ban is slated to start in 2007 following a four-year phase out period, and would effectively stop the sale and propagation of Norway maple (Acer platanoides), Japanese barberry (Berberis thunbergii) and burning bush (Euonymus alatus).

The ISW first reported on NH's invasive plant legislation, a landmark for New England, back in 2003. The phase-out period was set to give nurseries ample time to get rid of their stock and find potential replacements (see this ISW post from 2005). However, last month NH State Senator Robert Clegg stuck a provision on an unrelated bill to allow nurseries to sell the phased-out plants after the January 2007 deadline. The provision would also allow the sale of European barberry (Berberis vulgaris), a shrub that has already been banned for two years. The bill has passed in the NH Senate but still needs to be approved by the House.

I'd be pretty ticked about this if I were a New Hampshire nursery owner that spent time and money coming into compliance with the ban (or better yet, if I never sold those invaders at all)! One of the senators who spoke in favor of the provision, Brett Andrus, is a nursery owner himself, and also president of the New Hampshire Plant Growers Association. That means at least one senate member had the inside track on the hearts and minds of the state's nurseries since the original legislation went into effect in why wait until eight months before the end of the phase-out and then slip this provision into a bill that has nothing to do with invasive plants? It makes it seem like maybe those "in the know" weren't even trying to comply.

Triple bonus points to the owner of The Mixed Border Nursery and Gardens for leaving an excellent comment under the NHPR report in support of the phase-out.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Weekend Blog Blogging

This week in invasive species blogging:

  • bootstrap analysis blogs about new research showing that garlic mustard alters the ecology of the soil it grows in. Not good news for native plants that want to compete. I would link to the NYT article about it, but it costs money to read that now, so just heck out nuthatch's post and then link over to read the *free* original research paper. (Update: nuthatch was kind enough to send in this link to the NYT story)
  • snowfall kitten has done something few of us would have the guts to do: she took the paper she wrote for a univerity course, Invasive Ants and Supercolonies, and she posted it online for the world to see. The ISW gives her an A+!
  • The Urban Pantheist makes Japanese knotweed #129 out of 365 urban species.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Weekend Photoblogging

Like Buttahcup
Originally uploaded by urtica.

While out at Forbes Woods in Milton, MA last week, lesser celandine (Ranunculus ficaria) was ubiquitous in many parts of the forest. In two areas it completely dominated the understory - one of those two places is pictured here. Lesser celandine requires a moist habitat to thrive, so it's less likely to be found in the highly disturbed urban and suburban areas you typically see other invasive plants.

Lesser celandine spreads by tubers as well as by seed, so a lot of the plants in this photo are likely clones of each other.

Either way, this is one massive invasion!

Friday, May 12, 2006

Built to Spill

It seems fitting that this post is going up in the middle of a never-ending New England rainstorm...The Sacramento Bee is reporting that water levels have gotten so high at Lake Davis, officials are concerned that the reservoir will spill over into nearby rivers, leading to the release of invasive northern pike (Esox lucius). An abnormal amount of mountain snowfall this past winter has led the the lake being as little as 27 inches away from spill level. A hydraulic engineer notes in the article that it would only take "one big storm event" to push the water (and presumably the pike) over the edge.

The ISW has covered the Lake Davis pike problem several times over the past few years, read more from 2003 (a, b ) and 2002.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

57 Varieties of Data

The H. John Heinz III Center for Science, Economics and the Environment is out with their Survey of Non-Native Species Databases (.pdf), and they've got a load of data about, well, other people's data. The survey included more than 250 databases in the U.S., with the majority of them coming from Universities (many by grad student worker bees :-) ). Some findings form the study:

  • Most of the databases are updated no more than annually, with many not updated at all (indicating a one-time project), and the majority by far include data about plants.
  • Though several of the databases come from private sources, the majority of those allow public access to the data.
  • Unfortunately, less than half of all the databases surveyed are currently available online. The Heinz Center plans to make links available to the ones that are, and perhaps this study may encourage more of the participants to share their data (I am working on doing that for my own database right now!).
The study also looked at gaps in the data, and found that certain states (including the Dakotas and a block of Southern states in the central and eastern U.S.) had a lack of invasive species data. The authors also found a general lack of databases for data collected on wide temporal or spatial scales, but they did note that it is important to consider a variety of scales when studying invasive species.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006


As reported over at, a Texas utility company is taking an innovative approach to dealing with an invasion of monk parakeets (Myiopsitta monachus)...but it's not working. Frustrated by the birds nesting in its electrical substation, TXU Electric Delivery consulted with wildlife biologists and paid for the construction of a forty-foot high platform designed to mimic the layout of the substation. They disassembled the old nests, covered up the substation, and provided the birds with nesting materials. The parrots responded by taking the nesting materials back to the substation and attempting to rebuild their nests. The article ends with a discussion of what the company will do if the program is successful, but doesn't speculate on how that will even be possible, or why the birds are choosing to ignore their potentially cozy new digs (I'm thinking the substation is a heat source - any bird people want to chime in here?).

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Lizzie Burden

From the Florida Sun-Sentinel comes this report about an invasive lizard small enough to escape the attention Florida lavishes on its invasive reptilian cousins (see previous ISW posts about burmese pythons, iguanas, etc.). The northern curlytail lizard (Leiocephalus carinatus armouri) was brought from the Bahamas to an island off the coast of Florida back in the 1940s, as a "natural" insect control for sugar cane. Turns out they are voracious little predators, grabbing insects that other lizards are stalking, and even making meals out of said slower, native lizards.

Now thousands of curlytails can be found in Broward and Palm Beach Counties, and seem to do quite well in urban ecosystems (another reason they won't get as much attention as other invaders found in more natural habitats). Scientists at local universities are currently studying the lizards to learn more about their adapted behavior, such as sunning themselves on cars. Perhaps the curlytails will keep the brown anoles in check?

Interested readers may want to check out this paper (.pdf):

Meshaka et al. 2005. "The Geographically Contiguous and Expanding Coastal Range of the Northern Curlytail Lizard (Leiocephalus carinatus armouri) in Florida." Southeastern Naturalist. 4(3): 521-526.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Pining Away

On May 1st, the states of Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island were placed under quarantine by the USDA, due to the spread of the non-native pine shoot beetle (Tomicus piniperda). An astute ISW reader sent in a note last month about the discovery of the beetle in traps placed in Massachusetts - looks like they've thrown Connecticut and Rhode Island into the mix just due to their close proximity.

According to the announcement, the quarantine means that "interstate movement of PSB regulated articles from Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island must be done in accordance with 7 CFR 301.50-3(a)(1)." So "quarantine" is not as alarming as it sounds - it just requires that any PSB regulated articles need to have a permit before they can be moved from a quarantined state. So what's a "PSB regulated article"? Purdue University has a copy of the Federal Regulations, which state that this includes bark chips, Christmas trees, wood products with bark on them, pine used for making wreaths and garlands, and then pretty much anything else that is determined to have a risk of spreading the beetle.

The USDA has been tracking the spread of the pine shoot beetle for over a decade, and there are many other states also under quarantine. You can check out the archive of their reports here.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Weekend Blog Blogging

This past week in invasive species blogging...

  • Naturally Speaking has a nice meaty post about mongoose in Hawaii, in preparation for a trip to the islands.
  • The Urban Pantheist blogs about greater celandine (with a link about the unrelated lesser celandine too).
  • Botany Photo of the Day is gunning for Gunnera.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Fun with Search

Here's what visitors were searching the ISW for in the month of April, using that little search window over on the left side of the page: Top search phrases

  1. grey squirrel
  2. phytophtora
  3. lonicera shrub
  4. cane toad
  5. law
Other words that ranked high included snakehead, knotweed and ash borer.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Bahamas Mamas?

The Boston Globe is reporting that a juvenile lionfish (Pterois volitans) was recently discovered in the Bahamas. The fish, native to the Pacific and Indian Oceans, was found by workers on a diving expedition from the New England Aquarium. The discovery of such a young individual is potentially bad news for the Bahamas, since it implies that there are breeding adults out there as well. The ISW has previously reported on lionfish found in the more northern realms of the Atlantic Ocean, including off the coast of North Carolina and even New York.

Interested readers will also want to check out the New England Aquarium's take on the story, which includes photos of the cute little venomous creature in its new glass home.

Tip of the virtual hat to Dowbrigade News for posting about this story.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

A Snail's Pace

The St. Paul Pioneer Press, among others, is reporting that the New Zealand mud snail (Potamopyrgus antipodarum) was discovered in Lake Superior, the first record for the invasive species in Minnesota. While this may sound alarming, considering how the snail has already spread throughout the Pacific Northwest, the scientist who made the discovery was not surprised. This was in part due to the fact that the species had already been found in the Great Lakes region - at the head of Lake Superior, in Ontario's Thunder Bay back in 2001. Note that this recent Minnesota discovery occurred last fall, but was just recently documented and reported.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Can't We All Just Get a Longhorned?

Chicago is recruiting teenagers in the search for the Asian longhorned beetle (Anoplophora glabripennis), according to this article in the Chicago Sun-Times. Teachers and summer youth program leaders with middle and high-school students are being encouraged to sign up for a five-day Beetle Busters curriculum developed by the USDA, a local museum and a marketing group. The teens will be trained to search for the beetles and will also learn how to do community outreach to teach others about the invasive insects.

The one odd thing about the campaign is that there have been no longhorned beetles found in Chicago since 2003, making the chances of one of these teens coming across an Asian longhorned beetle pretty small. The area cannot be declared ALB-free until five consecutive years with no new discoveries (2008), so the extra pairs of eyes are certainly a good idea. But I wonder if this makes developing a volunteer campaign particularly tricky, since you need to find additional ways of engaging the teens when there is likely going to be no positive feedback from discovery.

Thanks to monopolist for the punny title :-).

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Anarchic Monkeys

Farmers in Puerto Rico are up in arms about recent attacks on their crops by packs of feral monkeys, according to this report from the Contra Costa Times. The farmers are under seige from at least two different species: patas monkeys (Erythrocebus patas) and rhesus monkeys (Macaca mulatta) that escaped from a medical research facility in the mid-20th century, and additional animals released on a nearby offshore island around the same time. All in all, there are more than 2000 monkeys now inhabiting southwest Puerto Rico. The San Juan Department of Natural and Environmental Resources and Puerto Rico's Department of Agriculture had made plans to capture the monkeys and sell them to...medical research laboratories, but a lack of funding has prevented that management plan from being implemented so far.

(Stop making the eyes at me, I'll stop making the eyes at you...)

Monday, May 01, 2006

Florida Fish First

Florida can add the Nile tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus) to its list of fish introduced to the wild, according to this report from the ANS Alert System. A specimen was caught this April near Cape Canaveral - the first official record of the escape of the African species in the state of Florida (though this web page and others refer to a population potentially residing in Lake Seminole). This is also the first time the Nile tilapia has been seen outside of captivity in the Southeast U.S. since a 2000 sighting in Mississippi. The cause of its introduction is listed as "released" (most likely from a fish farm).