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.