Monday, December 31, 2007

KZ in AZ

Back in 2006, the ISW posted about the curious sighting of an infestation of kudzu vine (Pueraria montana var. lobata) out in Arizona. Ed Northam recently sent out an update to his Arizona Weed Notes listserver, and has kindly given me permission to reprint the note here, along with some excellent before and after photos:

In September 2006, Arizona’s first reported population of Kudzu [Pueraria montana (Lour.) Merr.] was discovered in Huachuca City, Cochise County.

During early October 2006, plant samples collected from that unusual, sprawling, densely leaved, woody vine, plus photos by Jeffrey Myers, AZ Dept. of Agriculture, was enough evidence for Dr. Ed Northam, Invasive Plants Program Manager, University of Arizona Cooperative Extension Office, Maricopa County to conclude that Arizona had a population of Kudzu.

Dr. Kelly Steele (plant taxonomist, AZ State University Polytechnic) also confirmed the initial vegetative diagnosis. DNA sequence analysis of leaf samples from Huachuca City by Dr. Martin F. Wojciechowski, Associate Professor, ASU Tempe, School of Life Sciences, matched published Kudzu DNA sequences.

Kudzu attracts attention from Arizona plant scientists and land managers because this foreign vine has demonstrated its ability to dominate and smother both land and vegetation. Mature pine trees, roadsides, telephone poles landscape plantings in southeastern states have been buried under Kudzu’s invasive growth.

Because of Kudzu’s reputation as a biotic invader, AZ Dept. of Agriculture personnel initiated an eradication process when identification was completed. This control measure is based on a new herbicide from Dow AgroSciences called Milestone VM.

Vince Aguiar, Dow’s range and pasture vegetation specialist for Arizona provided weed management expertise for eradication treatments that began in November 2006.

Milestone was applied to the Huachuca City Kudzu at a rate of 7 oz. per acre. This application was repeated in March and June 2007. Visual estimates in August 2007 indicated >97 percent of Kudzu biomass died as a result of those three treatments (see photos provided by Arizona Dept. of Agriculture).

Even though the Kudzu infestation appears to be controlled, treatments are planned for 2008 to complete eradication and will continue until new shoots cease to emerge; then occasional monitoring is needed to insure none of the underground root reserves survive and clone new Kudzu plants.

Approximately 1/4 of Huachuca City Kudzu infestation -- Oct. 2006 Summer 2007 view showing excellent reduction of Kudzu infestation after treatment with 7 oz/acre of Milestone VM in Nov. 2006, March 2007 and June 2007.

Source: Northam, Ed. Arizona Kudzu: One Year Update. ARIZONA WEED NOTES. Dec. 11, 2007. Phoenix, AZ.

Sounds like they will have nipped this invasion in the bud after another couple of years of treatments and monitoring. Go AZ!

Weekend Photoblogging

This week we've got a nice photo of the invasive Brazilian pepper-tree, Schinus terebinthifolius, spotted somewhere in Miami:

Brazilian Pepper
Originally uploaded by My Little Photo Album

(Thanks to "My Little Photo Album" for sharing this photo with a Creative Commons license.)

Friday, December 28, 2007

Cat O' Nine Tales

The ISW has certainly covered the feral cat debate before (should we neuter them, should we hunt them, should we euthanize them...) but this report over at delves in deep enough to be worth a read. Focusing on the controversy in Galveston, Texas over efforts to trap, neuter and release the feral cat populations there, the article manages to cover several important issues, from the difference between ferals and strays, the impact of cats on wild birds, and the high cost of cat sanctuaries.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Loathe To Admit

NPR is out with their list of the Five Most Despised Invasive Species, compiled from a poll of the Ecological Society of America and probably a few of you readers as well:

  • zebra mussel
  • cheatgrass
  • Chinese mitten crab
  • fire ant
  • feral pig
I've gone ahead and compiled our own tiny data set from the blog comments [see here and here]. We managed to gather a pretty wide variety of loathed creatures for such a small data set! With a mere 8 contributors, this data has no real scientific value and is merely for our own interest:
  • Most loathed species: A tie for 3 votes each between mute swan and garlic mustard
  • Number of species in common with the NPR list: 2 [zebra mussel and fire ant]
  • Total number of organism types represented: 9
  • Organism types, ranked by number of votes:
    1. plants [10 votes]
    2. arthropods [insects etc., 9 votes]
    3. birds [6 votes]
    4. fish [4 votes]
    5. mammals [3 votes]
    6. bivalves [zebra mussel, 2 votes]
    7. reptiles [2 votes]
    8. algae [1 vote]
    9. annelids [worms, 1 vote]
  • Organism types, ranked by number of different species voted for (not much different, but I thought you'd like to see the master list):
    1. plants [Australian pine (Casuarina equisetifolia), buckthorn (glossy and common, Frangula alnus and Rhamnus frangula), garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata), ginkgo (Gingko biloba), Japanese barberry (Berberis thunbergii), kudzu (Pueraria montana var. lobata), spotted knapweed (Centaurea beibersteinii), tree of heaven (Ailanthus altissima)]
    2. arthropods [cat flea (Ctenocephalides felis), emerald ash borer (Agrilus planipennis), fire ant (Solenopsis invicta), German cockroach (Blatella germanica), spongy moth (Lymantria dispar), harlequin ladybug (Harmonia axyridis), hemlock wooly adelgid (Adelges tsugae), house fly (Musca domestica), twig ant (Pseudomyrmex gracilis)]
    3. birds [house crow (Corvus splendens), house sparrow (Passer domesticus), Javan mynah (Acridotheres javanicus), mute swan (Cygnus olor)]
    4. fish [carp (Hypophthalmichthys nobilis, among several other genera), guppy (Lebistes reticulatus), Mozambique tilapia (Oreochromis mossambicus), northern snakehead (Channa argus)]
    5. mammals [black rat (Rattus rattus), feral cat (Felis catus), Norway rat (Rattus norvegicus)]
    6. reptiles [brown tree snake (Boiga irregularis), red-eared slider (Trachemys scripta elegans)]
    7. bivalves [zebra mussel (Dreissena polymorpha)]
    8. algae [didymo (Didymosphenia geminata)]
    9. annelids [European earthworm (Eisenia hortensis, among other genera)]

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Tallow Grave

While the ISW has previously reported about Chinese tallow tree (Sapium sebiferum) here in the US, it was interesting to read that this species has also become a nuisance in India. The Telegraph is reporting that the tree, which was intentionally introduced to India as a source of vegetable oil, is spreading on its own into natural environments. Chinese tallow tree has allelopathic tendencies, releasing toxins into the soil that are likely to kill the surrounding plants wherever it sprouts up. Scientists in India are smart to note that this species, while not yet officially recognized as invasive in their country, has already become a problem in the southern USA, and thus has the potential to do the same in India.

Interested readers may also want to check out this similar story of a crop plant gone wild in Ghana.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Hyacinth High-Five

Back in July of this year, the ISW featured a post about a Florida neighborhood's canal system being overrun by water hyacinth (Eichhornia crassipes). The Naples Daily News has a good update on the story - sounds like the deciding factor over treating the aquatic invaders was that indeed, the county did own the canals, not local residents. Since then, the county has treated the canals twice using herbicide. Unfortunately there is no long-term management plan in place (the deciding factor for that being: $$$), so the plants will likely make a return in the future. At least the residents of East Naples sound a lot happier...for now.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Weekend Photoblogging

bz-eez.bzzng by
Originally uploaded by eye of einstein

The most common bird in Hawaii is from...Japan. Hmph.

eye of einstein has generously shared this beautiful photo of the Japanese white-eye (Zosterops japonicus) under a Creative Commons license. What a pretty little invasive species!

Friday, December 21, 2007

Pulp Friction

The Ghanaian Chronicle is reporting that Ghana's landscape under threat from non-native tree species. The paper mulberry (Broussonetia papyrifera, called "pulp mulberry" in the article), native to Asia, was intentionally introduced to Ghana back in the late 1960s for its use in fiber production. Since then, it has become quite invasive in that country, and is difficult to control in areas where it becomes established. While it is a particular problem in some farming communities, it is also invading more natural areas such as forest reserves. With no effective controls in place, scientists are currently working on a management plan so that affected land owners will be better able to deal with this species.

(Bonus points to the Ghanaian Chronicle for using the plant's scientific name.)

Thursday, December 20, 2007

The Continental

File this one under "It's About Time!" As recently as a few months ago, the USDA's PLANTS database called a plant species "native" if it was considered native in any part of the US or its territories. This was particularly frustrating in cases, for example, of tropical species that have been recorded only in Puerto Rico, or for species native to the mainland US but considered introduced in Hawaii. I am happy to report that the PLANTS database now acknowledges that being native to a political part of the USA is not the same as being native to the entire American landscape:

Note the red box I've drawn on the screengrab above - the database now clearly separates native/introduced data for each plant species into the following categories:

  1. The "Lower 48" states (every state but Alaska and Hawaii)
  2. Alaska
  3. Hawaii
  4. Puerto Rico
  5. The US Virgin Islands
  6. Canada! No, really!
  7. The Territorial Collectivity of Saint Pierre and Miquelon (A French territory off the Atlantic coast of Canada!)
This is a great step forward for what is already an extensive and highly valued source of plant data for the US.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Tangled Bank is Here!

A fresh edition of the Tangled Bank blog carnival is up at Ouroboros, check it out!

House Sparrow Invades Senate!

birdCNNSenate Originally uploaded by urtica
Saw this silly piece on CNN Video last night - a bird got into the Senate press room in Washington D.C., causing a bit of havoc and providing numerous opportunities for the press to report on something a little less serious than the standard political coverage (that silly thought bubble is CNN's - not mine). Turns out that was a female house sparrow (Passer domesticus), intentionally introduced from the UK over 150 years ago. Perhaps she was bravely attempting some kind of accord between the House and Senate on the FISA debacle, or maybe she was just intending to do some "target practice."

(Thanks to buckeye for the bird ID)

Tuesday, December 18, 2007


Wish I had caught this story when it first broke: The Miami Herald is reporting that the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is looking for South Florida residents willing to adopt other people's unwanted exotic pets. The program is part of an effort by the state to discourage pet owners from dumping their critters in the wild when they're no longer wanted, and is being held in conjunction with the third annual South Florida Nonnative Pet Amnesty Day. The amnesty day, scheduled for February 23, 2008 at the Miami MetroZoo, is an opportunity for pet owners to drop off animals with no questions asked. If you think you have room in your home and your heart for a cute scaly or feathery friend, contact the Florida FWC (applications and contact info are here), but you've only got a few days left - the registration period ends December 21st.

Tip of the virtual hat to the Protect Your Waters website for posting a link to this story.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Aural Presentation

A follow-up on this post about NPR's "Most Loathed Invasive Species" feature:

I got an email from NPR's Science Reporter John Nielsen, letting me know that the piece has morphed into a write-up that is scheduled to debut on NPR's website during the last week of December, paired with a radio feature about the nasty new darling of invasive species media, Didymo (Didymosphenia geminata, also affectionately known as "rock snot").

John has received more than 300 lists of top five loathed invasives, so it will be interesting to hear what makes the cut. In the meantime, if you're still to get your words out, John has a new request:

if there is a species that you hate above all others and you don’t mind being quoted on the NPR web page, please send me a few lines full of bile and emotion or whatever re the species you have chosen.
Anyone game? If so, send email to jnielsen AT npr DOT org, and feel free to post your thoughts here - I'm thinking it is just too hard to narrow it down to one!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Weekend Photoblogging

If you are in the USA, as I am, you might be wondering what a largemouth bass (Micropterus salmoides) is doing on the ISW. But consider that this photo was taken in Zimbabwe...

(Thanks to Brian for sharing this photo under a Creative Commons license.)

Friday, December 14, 2007

New And Notable

The latest and greatest in species introductions:

  • Sudden oak death (Phytophthora ramorum) was discovered in Lithuania, in nursery stock imported from Poland. The plants are under quarantine so hopefully the pathogen won't be sticking around.
  • The Asian hornet Vespa velutina has been discovered in France. This hornet species is not much of a direct nuisance to humans, but unfortunately they like to eat honeybees.
  • They've found another Chinese mitten crab (Eriocheir sinensis) in New York, second one ever.
  • There are a bunch of new discoveries in Puerto Rico, and as usual, they sound like the selection you'd find at your local aquarium store:
  • Also new to Puerto Rico: water spangles (Salvinia minima)
Sources: The EPPO Reporting Service #10 and the USGS NAS Alert system.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Snake It Up Baby!

The Toledo Blade is reporting that a group of hunters out to score some duck in northwest Ohio were shocked to happen upon a large snake in the middle of the marsh. While heading over to retrieve a successfully hunted duck, one of the men found what turned out to be a seven foot long African rock python (Python sebae). This is all the more surprising when you consider that 1) It's Ohio 2) It was 37'F and 3) It was sleeting. The hunters could have just run away but they cowboyed up and took the snake with them. Hopefully they also reported the incident to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. For now, the snake, surely an escaped or released pet, has found a new, indoor home with one of the hunter's neighbors.

Update 12/17/07: Oh good, at least the USGS grabbed the record for their NAS Alert database.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Alaska Takes Hawaii's Leftovers

A few weeks ago the ISW reported that a whole planeload of Christmas trees sent to Hawaii were shipped back to Oregon after pest inspectors found wasps in the shipping containers. Well, it turns out the trees took a detour on their way home, and ended up in Alaska, where they were sold to the unsuspecting public by Northern Air Cargo (NAC). Alaska doesn't inspect domestic imports, which was great news for NAC, and not such great news for Alaska. Sounds like Alaska's officials are not too happy at the hole they've uncovered in their inspection system, so perhaps this will drive the state to implement more stringent import regulations.

Alaskans who bought Christmas trees from NAC are being asked to take a close look at their purchase, in case they got some "bonus beasties" along with their Christmas cheer. Read the full story over at KTUU news.

What is really interesting is that nothing illegal has happened here: it was a domestic import, and the shipment was certified by the Oregon Department of Agriculture. Yet, there is still obviously a danger of a pest introduction occurring, not a good idea even for species that have already been recorded in Alaska. Does the Oregon DAR intentionally ignore the presence of certain insects in shipments, or did the inspection simply fail?

(Bonus points to John Roberts for convincing me not to go with my first choice for post title.)

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Go With The Flow

Residents of Cape Coral, Florida are incensed that invasive snails have taken over their water pipes. The News-Press is reporting that Mayan snails (Melanoides tuberculatus) have invaded the pipes used to deliver irrigation water to the city, and are causing everything from reduced flows to complete clogs. While the filters used for the irrigation system are designed to catch anything 5 microns or larger, the snails have no trouble passing through at their larval stage. The city is responding by blasting the water with large doses of chlorine, but no one is sure whether the treatment will be successful. Since the irrigation system also supplies water to the city's fire hydrants, here's hoping they get the situation under control soon.

Update: Andrew B. points out that they probably meant to call it "Malay snail," as in Malaysia, and points out this helpful link.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Perch Precariously

The Daily Nation is reporting that populations of introduced Nile perch (Lates niloticus) in Lake Victoria are dwindling, causing strife for fishermen in Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania. The perch in Lake Victoria were once so numerous that they overwhelmed the lake and many of the native fish that lived there, causing a ripple effect that extended to the lives of the people that live in countries surrounding the lake and spawned a movie about the consequences. Now the perch are getting much harder to find, with fishermen being to forced to venture into the deeper waters of the lake in search of their catch. General consensus is that the drop in Nile perch numbers is likely due to water pollution, which likely doesn't bode well for the other creatures that call the lake home.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Weekend Blog Blogging

The past week in invasive species posts, from elsewhere in the blogosphere:

  • Snail's Tales has a tale about discovering Japanese mystery snails in the Potomac River. (Thanks budak!)
  • The Grinder, CHOW's foodie blog, posts about salmon farms in Chile.
  • Over at National Geographic's NGC Blog, Elena Cruz gives folks a sneak peak of her upcoming feature called "Fishzilla! Snakehead Invasion." Hopefully it will be airing again this month because I missed it!

Friday, December 07, 2007

Calcium Supplement

According to this press release at EurekAlert, new research indicates that calcium may be the key to why zebra mussels and quagga mussels (Dreissena polymorpha and Dreissena rostriformis bugensis) have not shown up some parts of the USA. Scientists looked at calcium concentrations from streams and rivers in the US to determine which regions had the greatest risk of mussel invasion. They found that low calcium levels meant an area was less likely to have either species. That's good news for New England, and bad news for those feeling optimistic about the Lake Mead invasion in the western USA.

The scientists surmise that this finding is due to the fact that the invasive mussels have a higher requirement for calcium than native mussel species. If you want to read more, the full article was published in the latest issue of Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment. The article abstract here. If, like me, you don't have full access to that journal, you can entertain yourself with the map that resulted from the analysis.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Toronto Gets The Green Blight

You may have noticed the little blurb in the ISW Twitter widget (middle of the left column on the front page) about the emerald ash borer (Agrilus planipennis) infestation reported in Toronto, Canada (read more about it from the Canada News Centre website). The boring beetles were discovered in ash trees about 60 miles (150 km) away from the current quarantine zone in the province of Ontario, and about 50 miles (125 km) from the recent sighting of the beetle in Turkey Point (see here). I've thrown together a quick and dirty Google Map to show you the details:

View Larger Map

As with the Turkey Point site, the Canadian government has instituted a new quarantine zone restricting the movement of ash lumber, nursery stock and wood products in a 3.1 mile (5 km) radius around the site where the Toronto EABs were found. Firewood from all tree species are also subject to the quarantine. As this FAQ points out, tree removal is no longer considered an effective way of managing EAB invasions, so local property owners are mostly safe...for now anyway.

Tip of the virtual hat to John at the Don Watcher for sending in a link to this story.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Fun With Video

A peek into the world of invasive species-related videos:

  • This one is a real gem: Captain PU in "Attack of the Invasive Species" which a grown man wears tights and a cape, and goes off to fight the invasive aquatic plant known as Eurasian water milfoil. In this version of unreality, the milfoil is a guy standing in the water, dressed in business casual accented by an aluminum foil hat and bow tie. Super cheesy but with a fair amount of useful information about aquatic invaders. Bonus points to you if you get flashbacks to the goofy videos you made with your friends back in school.
  • Speaking of goofy videos you made with your friends back in school...this one on YouTube is certainly goofy, but watching a teen dressed up as an invasive Aussie rabbit get shot, poisoned, and attacked is laugh-out-loud funny. This other video may be for the same class project - it's really cute and actually has a lot of good information. Excuse me, I need to go buy some peanut M&M's! LOLZ!!!111!!
  • The Center for Aquatic and Invasive Species has put together an identification video for the invasive aquatic plant hydrilla. This is a great idea! The video imparts far more information than you could get from just a set of photos, and does it faster than a fact sheet. Here's hoping it is just the first of many.
  • Watch this video to learn about Dave Delaney's citizen science project to monitor marine invasive species that live off the coast of North America. Dave's research focuses on crabs: Asian shore crabs, European green crabs, and the Chinese mitten crab. If you are interested in finding out more about the project or perhaps even volunteering, be sure to check out Dave's website.
  • Did this question about invasive species in the Great Lakes make it into the CNN/YouTube Democratic debate? It should have, if only because that kid put on a suit with a bow tie to go to the beach. Go Jake!
  • Hankering for a hearty meal? Why not try some Kentucky Tuna? Of course by "Kentucky Tuna," I mean smoked bighead carp! It actually looks good.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007


Back in November, the News Tribune reported that a new species of snail had invaded Tacoma, Washington, causing the U.S. Department of Agriculture to order it eradicated. What makes the Mediterranean snail (Cernuella virgata) attract the attention of the federal government over the other non-native snail species in the USA? Unfortunately for farmers in the Tacoma area, Mediterranean snails like agricultural fields, and can ruin crops by covering them with trails of slime.

The property owners charged with the eradication had difficulties keeping up with the strict 25-day deadline, so the USDA is now working with them to try to get the snails cleaned up as soon as possible. One innovative way they are doing it: using goats to eat the vegetation in the infested areas so that workers can more easily get in to apply the bait that poisons the snails. You can read more about the "Rent-A-Ruminant" goats in this blurb from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Bonus points to the News Tribune for using the snail's scientific name (though, as budak notes in the comments, that is one odd common name for a snail native to Asia and Africa).

Monday, December 03, 2007

Felonious Monks

Looks like the monk parakeets (Myiopsitta monachus) troubling a public utility in Yacolt, Washington have received a stay of execution, but not before three of the birds lost their lives. According to this report from The Columbian, Clark Public Utilities has agreed to call off the crews charged with capturing and euthanizing the parrots, to give the Yacolt Quaker Parrot Preservation Association (YQPPA) a chance to find a more humane solution. The YQPPA endeavors to keep the flock of about 200 parrots in Yacolt by luring them away from their current nesting spot (around the town's electrical transformers). This is going to be a tricky endeavor, since monk parrots tend to imprint on their nesting sites, but the YQPPA is hoping to sway the birds with taller (and thus theoretically more attractive) nesting poles.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Weekend Blog Blogging

The past couple weeks in invasive species posts, from elsewhere in the blogosphere:

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Weekend Photoblogging

This is the Golden Dewdrop plant, Duranta erecta, a shrub native to Tropical America but not to Hawaii, where this photo was taken. The photographer, Donna62, smartly noted when posting this lovely photo to Flickr that the species is considered one of Hawaii's Most Invasive Horticultural Plants, and this risk assessment will tell you a little more about why.

As with many tropical species, this plant is ridiculously showy, both in flower and fruit. Our invasives here in New England really cannot compete :-).

Thanks to Donna62 for sharing this photo under a Creative Commons license.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Mauritius Menagerie

Reuters Africa has a report about invasive species plaguing the island of Mauritius. From an ecological standpoint, Mauritius may be most famous as the home of the famously extinct dodo bird. Now the remaining native fauna of the island, already threatened by established populations of rats and monkeys, are seeing increased predation by new introductions including the giant Malagasy day gecko (Phelsuma madagascariensis) and the Indian musk shrew (Suncus murinus). Native flora is also being impacted, by herbivores as well as through plant introductions such as the Chinese guava (Psidium cattleianum) and the climbing vine known as hiptage (Hiptage benghalensis).

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

2008 Calendars Are Here!

The Invasive Species Weblog 2008 Wall Calendar is now available for purchase at Cafepress:

2008 calendar cover

The calendar features more than a dozen invasive plants and animals, each depicted in an 11 x 8.5 inch full-color photo. Among this year's selections are Black Swallow-wort, Mute Swan, and Yellow Starthistle. If you click through you can see a preview of all twelve months.

The ISW store is also chock full of many more gifts for your favorite weed geek. All (meager) earnings received go to charity or back to ISW readers as contest prizes.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007


bug of the day - bonus!
Originally uploaded by urtica

It's that time of year again! A lot of people have been stopping in at the ISW lately, following Google searches for some variation of the phrase "European winter moth." Sure enough, there are moths out and about in Massachusetts, though it is tricky to tell apart the three winter flyers we get: the European winter moth (Operophtera brumata) and the native Bruce spanworm moth (Operophtera bruceata) and fall cankerworm moth (Alsophila pometaria). For your convenience, I present the following links:

Monday, November 26, 2007

A Little Less Didymo

Diligent ISW readers may remember this post from October about the discovery of the algae known as didymo (Didymosphena geminata, also known as "rock snot") on the North Island of New Zealand. Tests done by Biosecurity New Zealand indicated the presence of dead cells of the algae in several North Island Rivers, with all signs pointing to the arrival of didymo after being known on the South Island for several years.

As a commenter noted, no live cells were found in the North Island samples, and now Scoop news is reporting that the actual source of the dead cells was...contaminated sampling containers. Lids used to seal the containers were sent off in sampling equipment with microscopic amounts of dead didymo cells left over from lab testing. The lab says they have protocols in place to prevent the transfer of any live plant matter, and it looks like they will be adding steps to prevent the transfer of dead organic material as well.

Tip of the virtual hat to the Protect Your Waters website for posting a link to this story.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Weekend Photoblogging

Heavily earthworm-infested soil
Originally uploaded by esagor
There's no "Before" shot here so you are just going to have to imagine that this patch of earth in Minnesota was once covered by a thick layer of leaf litter. You're not supposed to be able to see the exposed soil, it means that non-native earthworms have passed through and done a right job on the place.

Thanks to esagor for sharing this photo under a Creative Commons license. Do click over to his photo page to read more about the negative impacts of non-native earthworms.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Christmas in Hawaii?

A whole bunch of Christmas trees headed for Hawaii earlier this week were quarantined after inspectors discovered at least two different wasp species in the shipping containers. USA Today is reporting that the containers, sent from Oregon, contained two German yellow jacket wasps (Vespula germanica), including one live queen, and three other live wasps that have yet to be identified. The German wasps, which have never been recorded in Hawaii, were of particular concern due to their propensity for living in suburban and urban environments.

One of the contaminated containers was sent back to the company it came from, and the rest, according to this article at the Honolulu Star Bulletin, were vigorously inspected by officials from the Hawaiian Department of Agriculture's Inspection and Compliance Section. Hawaiians with Christmas tree cravings need not fear however, since over one hundred of the containers, each carrying 300 trees, did pass inspection, and more are on the way.

Thursday, November 22, 2007


Bits of turkey from an invasive species perspective:

  • The Windsor Star is reporting that the emerald ash borer (Agrilus planipennis) has been discovered in Turkey Point, the furthest east the beetle has even been seen in the province of Ontario, Canada.
  • Turkeyfish (Pterois volitans, also known as lionfish) are establishing off the coast of Georgia. LiveScience has more, plus a pretty picture.
  • has got the scoop on turkey berry (Solanum torvum), an invasive plant from the West Indies that has spread into tropical areas around the globe.

  • Get even more turkeyfish over at the cephalopodcast blog, where Jason is serving up some tasty Turkey Day morsels.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Hoofin' It

Sounds like hooved beasts are causing trouble in the invasive species world this week. Newswise recently posted this report about new research suggesting that horses are in part responsible for spreading non-native plants along trails in Colorado. Scientists picked through road apples and discovered that the horses were carrying a lot of alien seed in their feces. While there was no particular species that the horses are being blamed for spreading, the research does remind us that horses are potential vectors of invasive plants and should not be overlooked. Kudos to the journal Rangeland Ecology & Management for making the full paper available online for free.

Over in Wisconsin, deer hunting season is about to start, and this year hunters will be helping collect data on invasive plants. Every deer brought in to the Department of Natural Resources for registration will have its hooves checked for invasive plants. Students from Luther College in Iowa will be assisting the Wisconsin DNR in collecting the data. Here's hoping we hear back from them on their findings - they say this is the first study of its kind for white-tail deer (Odocoileus virginianus, native to the US), and the results should be interesting. has the full story.

Thanks to budak for sending in a link to the horse tale. If you have an interesting invasive species story that you would like to share, send it in by clicking on the "Suggest a Post" link in the top right corner.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Snakes Eyed

The Army Times is reporting that a group of political leaders from the Pacific Island region known as Micronesia have joined together to ask US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates to make sure that the US military doesn't allow the invasive brown tree snake (Boiga irregularis) to spread from Guam. The officials want the US to set an official policy that guarantees sufficient prevention measures are in place. Included in these measures: funding for new invasive species detection tools, and a lofty goal of completely eradicating the brown tree snake from Guam.

Monday, November 19, 2007

How Do I Loathe Thee?

In case you missed Friday's post, there is probably still time for you to get your two cents in to NPR about what you think are "The 5 most loathed invasive species in the world."

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Weekend Blog Blogging

The past week in invasive species posts, from elsewhere in the blogosphere:

Weekend Photoblogging

Euonymus gone astray
Originally uploaded by urtica
Euonymus gone astray - this is a photo collage of an introduced Euonymus, naturalized in Canton, Massachusetts. I was lucky enough to get a tour of the site a couple of weeks ago.

The jury is not yet in on whether this is E. planipes or E. sachalinensis. The fruits were odd in that the number of locules (chambers) they contained varied, even on the same plant, between four and five.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Fear And Self-Loathing On NPR

Want a chance to be heard on NPR? Science reporter John Nielsen is prepping a story for next week's news on the "five most loathed invasive species in the world." There are only two rules to follow here: 1) Be specific and 2) No diseases. I'd like to add a 3) No fair saying "humans" - we're too easy a target.

What would you put on the list? If you want to give John a piece of your mind, drop him a line at 202-513-2781 or email him at jnielsen AT npr DOT org. He's especially hoping to hear from scientists, but everyone is welcome to participate. If you're too shy to share with public radio, let's get a discussion started in the comments!

Here is my list, which was awfully hard to make, because I love all invasive species equally ;-). In no particular order:

  • Didymo (Didymosphenia geminata) - The spread of this freshwater aquatic algae is near impossible to detect or control. It's all over New Zealand and was recently discovered in the Northeastern USA. I cannot think of an invader that would make resource managers feel more helpless or frustrated, and anglers are certainly peeved as well.
  • Northern snakehead (Channa argus) - Hated widely because it is so charismatic, rather than for its impact. They've made two movies about this fish already!
  • Fire ants (Solenopsis invicta) - No one likes biting insects, especially ones that travel in packs.
  • Mute swan (Cygnus olor) - Only because the amount that this species is hated by the people charged with managing them and people concerned with their environmental impact is directly proportional to the amount that this species is loved by animal rights activists and those captivated by their aesthetic qualities.
  • The abominable feral kudzu hydrilla pig-carp. Okay, so this last one is a cop-out :-).

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Glaring At The Sea

The Balkan Investigative Reporting Network has an excellent article summarizing the current problems plaguing the Adriatic Sea following an incursion of the invasive alga Caulerpa racemosa. It is now recognized that Caulerpa, first discovered in 2000, is likely a permanent part of the Adriatic, however there has yet to be any plan put into place to control its movement. While a few countries bordering the Adriatic, including France, Croatia and Montenegro, have allocated low levels of funding towards Caulerpa control, the article notes that a coordinated, regional effort would be most effective at preventing the further spread of the seaweed. One roadblock to such an effort is the bad political blood that remains between some countries following the wars that occurred in the Balkans during the 1990s.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

The Emperor's New Fish

The International Herald Tribune is reporting that the Emperor of Japan is expressing much regret over his decision to accept a gift of live bluegill (Lepomis macrochirus) from the United States. He brought the fish home in 1960 and, with the hope that he could cultivate them as a food fish, gave them to Japan's Fisheries Agency. Researchers there then bred the fish and released many of them into Lake Biwa. Unfortunately, bluegill numbers eventually got out of hand, and the native fauna of the lake has since declined. With peak populations of the non-native fish topping 2 million in 2002, Japan has been forced to spend millions of dollars removing bluegill from the lake.

Tip of the virtual hat to the annotated budak for sending in a link to this story.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Going Bo Bo

The Molokai Times reports that last week's meeting of the Maui Invasive Species Committee revealed several interesting new invaders on the Hawaiian islands of Maui and Molokai. Perhaps most intriguing is one botanist's observation that the bo tree (Ficus religiosa, also known as the sacred fig), an Asian import often planted as a religious symbol, is on the move. Once thought to be able to spread only by cuttings, the bo tree is apparently now able to reproduce by seed, following the recent arrival of a wasp that can act as a pollinator. Surveys of Molokai for wild bo trees are in progress, along with plans to prevent the trees from producing seeds. The committee is also asking anyone on Maui or Molokai that knows the location of a bo tree to contact them.

Bonus points to the Molokai Times for using the bo tree's scientific name.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Turtle Power!

Andrew B. sends in this story from the Manawatu Standard about the red-eared slider turtle (Chrysemys scripta elegans) in New Zealand. Sliders are North American species, and are often kept as pets or used as food in other countries. A wild slider was recently discovered hanging out by Kawau Stream and later captured by the New Zealand Department of Conservation. Apparently they've taken a liking to the turtle, who is now named Donatello. Wildlife officials aren't sure if the turtle is a recent escape, but New Zealand is currently thought to have too cold a climate for red-eared sliders to overwinter there.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Weekend Blog Blogging

The past week in invasive species posts, from elsewhere in the blogosphere:

  • Words & Pictures has an interesting post about American skunks discovered in the wild in the UK. I would think they'd be pretty low on the pet totem pole, but apparently not.
  • Other bloggers had some fun with this ISW post about praying as a control method for invasive species. At bogalusa, you can read a great little poem. Drew at Drew's Brave New World suggests a new powerful acronym: WWKD (What Would Kudzu Do?). Someone put that on a bumper sticker, stat! :-)
  • Fisher at the Luxury Gardens blog is a garden designer, but the questions he gets most frequently are about how to get rid of invasive plants.
  • That Fish Blog has a post about lionfish, which they sell at That Fish Place but don't want you to ever release into the wild.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Rhino Blasty

Guam is in the midst of fighting off an invasion of coconut rhinoceros beetles (Oryctes rhinoceros) that are attacking the island's palm trees. The beetles were first spotted this past September, and a quarantine has been in effect since October in an attempt to keep the beetles from spreading. The Pacific Daily News is reporting that one local resort, the Pacific Island Club, is extremely concerned that damage to their palm trees translates to damage to Guam's tourism industry. They have taken the initiative and set their own pheremone traps to capture the beetles. The Guam Department of Agriculture has also set out over 100 traps and together the two groups have caught almost 20 beetles so far.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Click It Or Tick It!

There is still time to vote for the Invasive Species Weblog in the Best Science Blog category of the 2007 Weblog Awards. Go on, click it, you know you want to!

Voting ended with the ISW in 5th place...and then somehow two hours later the ISW was in 6th place. Either way, it was good just to be a finalist, and to see all the new visitors that stopped by over the past week!

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Blister Blues

The Tahoe Daily Tribune is reporting that white pine blister rust (Cronartium ribicola) is on the move in the Tahoe Basin, the area surrounding Lake Tahoe in California and Nevada. The rust fungus, an introduction from Central Asia, attacks sugar pine, Western white pine, whitebark pine (commonly referred to as the "five-needle" pines), and many species of currants (Ribes spp.) as well. Once infected, the trees are weakened and can die from secondary infections, insect infestations, or from the rust fungus alone.

Given the difficulty of fighting a fungal invader, which can easily spread to new trees through tiny, wind-blown spores, scientists are instead focusing on the discovery of sugar pines that are resistant to the rust. A breeding program currently in progress aims to grow as many resistant seedlings as possible so that they can be planted throughout Tahoe Basin.

If you are curious about the origin and global spread of white pine blister rust, this PowerPoint presentation from Kim Hummer will provide you with all the details.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Worm Woods

Holy Jumping Wormies, Batman! Sounds like Georgia has got some serious problems with Asian earthworms. Affectionately known as "Alabama jumpers" (Amynthas agrestis), these worms are known for their ability to jump right out of a bait cup. They are also known by scientists for their aggressive behavior, raising concerns that they could be having an impact on native earthworm species. Now the worms have recently been observed moving into forested areas in the Smoky Mountains, as evidenced by patches of the forest floor now completely devoid of any leaf litter. The Athens Banner-Herald has the full story, or you can read a paper on the subject here. Bonus points to the Banner-Herald for using the worm's scientific name.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Botox For The Birds

A story from the AP is suggesting that the recent swarm of bird deaths in Michigan are the indirect result of the proliferation of invasive species in the Great Lakes. The birds are washing ashore at Lake Michigan by the dozen, with the cause of death determined to be avian botulism (type "E"), one of several episodes to occur over the past few years. The botulism itself is not considered invasive, but scientists are speculating that it is getting to the birds through a food chain of invaders: Zebra and quagga mussels (Dreissena polymorpha and D. rostriformis bugensis) containing the bacteria that causes botulism (Clostridium botulinum) are either consumed by birds or consumed by invasive round gobies (Neogobius melanostomus), which are then consumed by birds.

I am not sure if invasive species are specifically to blame here, or if it is just that the invaders are so numerous that they now make up a significant portion of the diet of birds that frequent the Great Lakes. Are zebra and quagga mussels the only ones that can filter botulinum bacteria? Do round gobies harbor more of the bacteria than native fish? The AP article glosses over the surface of the full story, so I did some investigating and found the following hypotheses, summarized from this well-written article from Michigan Sea Grant and this one from Wisconsin Sea Grant:

  • Invasive mussels create a type of habitat that is more favorable for the growth of Clostridium botulinum.
  • Zebra and/or quagga mussels filter at a much faster rate than native mussel species, allowing the toxins and pathogens that they filter out to build up to a greater degree than similar-sized native species.
  • The filtering power of these invasive mussels clears the water, allowing the algae Cladophora to grow. When this algae reaches sufficient numbers and then dies, the resulting anaerobic water conditions encourage the growth of Clostridium botulinum.

It is important to note that none of these hypotheses have yet been proven to be an underlying cause of avian botulism. Research continues in both the US and Canada in order that we might one day understand the cycle of bird deaths and stop it from repeating. Until then, the invasive mussels may seem the most obvious target of blame but it could turn out that the situation is much more complicated.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Weekend Blog Blogging

The past week in invasive species posts, from elsewhere in the blogosphere:

  • Sifolinia takes a break from ant blogging to pick up some Asian lady beetles, and ponders whether it is already a lost cause.
  • Even more about the light brown apple moth, this time from 0tt's livejournal.
  • Walking is Transportation posts about a new path that's as good for walkers as it is bad for invaders.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Weekend Photoblogging

Originally uploaded by Stv.
A mongoose on a beer run in Hawaii. At least it has good enough taste to go for the microbrews :-).

The mongoose (Herpestes javanicus) was intentionally introduced to the Hawaiian Islands back in the mid 1800s as a biological control for rats, a job it failed at miserably.

Bonus points to Stv. for sharing this photo under a Creative Commons license!

Friday, November 02, 2007

Words Of Pray

There's an interesting little piece in today's Christian Science Monitor about an invasive species control method that I must admit I have never considered: prayer. The author of the article notes that global efforts to manage invasive species are stalled by politics and by social issues, and goes on to suggest praying as something that can be done right now and that could inspire folks to come up with potential solutions and lead to greater cooperation. Sort of like brainstorming with God I guess. The article comes complete with a parable about a farmer with an enemy who intentionally introduces a weed into his wheat field.

I have to admit, the idea of people praying for a solution to invasive species problems intrigues me. I would have guessed this issue would be much further down on the prayer totem pole, somewhere below praying for an end to global warming.

P.S. - I know you Pharyngula pholks are out there. Be kind, rewind.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

One Lake At A Time

In an attempt to slow the spread of VHS (Viral Hemorrhagic Septicemia) in their state, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources has enacted emergency regulations stating that anyone exiting a body of water must now make sure to drain his/her boat and fishing equipment. VHS, first discovered in the Great Lakes Region in 2005, infects mostly salmonid types of fishes (salmon, trout, etc.) and remains viable in water for up to two weeks, meaning that it could be spread easily by angling activities. Perhaps more frustrating for anglers is the additional rule that any fish taken away from a body of water in Wisconsin must be dead, even bait fish. As a fishing guide says in this story from WJFW, that could be a pain for anyone wanting to visit multiple bodies of water in a single day.

You Can't Win If You Don't Play

The Invasive Species Weblog has made it to the finalist round of the Best Science Blog category of the 2007 weblog awards. It is an honor just to be nominated, especially given that there's not a chance the ISW will be victorious in a battle that includes the likes of Pharyngula and SciGuy. But hey, if you're here via the awards pages, thanks for stopping by, enjoy your stay, and I hope you learn something while you're here.

Update: The polls are now open. Vote here!

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Magnetic North

The Dominion Post is reporting on what is most likely the inevitable spread of didymo algae (Didymosphenia geminata, also known as "rock snot") to the North Island of New Zealand. Didymo has been recorded all over the South Island since it first was spotted back in 2004. Now tests done on water from several North Island rivers show evidence of dead didymo cells present in the samples.

With dead cells there, can live ones be far behind? This seems to be more about detecting *when* and not *if* healthy didymo arrives on the North Island and starts to spread. Biosecurity New Zealand scientists sound like they are ready and waiting with a rapid response protocol that includes closing off impacted rivers and treating them with chelated copper. In the meantime, officials are asking anyone using the waterways to employ their own "Check, Clean, and Dry" protocol in an attempt to prevent didymo from spreading.

Thanks to Andrew B. for sending in a link to this story.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Down The Drain

Monroe News is reporting that the city of Monroe, Michigan is making plans to wash out the invasive flowering rush (Butomus umbellatus) that has taken over parts of the River Raisin. If all goes well, local dams will be opened up next spring, with the goal of lowering the water level and increasing the rate of water flow. Officials are hoping the rush will find the new growing conditions unpalatable, and are also looking forward to the benefits removing the dam gates should have on fish populations. As a contingency plan, volunteers will also be recruited to do hand-pulling.

Interested readers will also want to check out this 2005 ISW post about the flowering rush in River Raisin.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Boars For The Taking

If it oinks, shoot it. That's basically what Ohio wildlife officials are telling hunters who encounter wild boars in their state, according to this report from the Toledo Blade. The number of wild boars (Sus scrofa, also called feral pigs) in Ohio has reached a level where hunters would have to kill 80% of them just to keep populations stable (I can't seem to find out exactly what that number is - either there are a lot of them or they are very, very fertile!). The article notes that some of the blame for the continued spread of the wild boar belongs to hunting reserves, where the animals are known to occasionally escape into the wild. Ohio hunters are being asked to do their state a favor and "pig out" year round. As encouragement, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources has produced a color map (pdf) showing prime boar habitat throughout the state, and is asking successful hunters to post photos to this website (P.S. - those are hunting photos, so if you don't like seeing dead animals, skip the link!).

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Weekend Blog Blogging

The past week in invasive species blogging, from elsewhere on the internets:

  • The House and other Arctic Musings is not happy that Cape May, prime birdwatching habitat, has recently decided to implement a Trap/Neuter/Release program for feral cats.
  • Random Stew has a good summary of the Argentine ant problem.
  • Botany Photo of the Day does seaweed.