Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Last Chance to Win!

The deadline to send in an invasive species news article or blog post and get yourself a chance to win a cool Phragwrites pen is tonight, at midnight! So, what are you waiting for???

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

What Arkansas

Greetings, northern snakehead: Welcome to the wilds of Arkansas!

The AP is reporting that the northern snakehead (Channa argus) has been discovered for the first time in Arkansas, but if you want the story behind the story, head over to the AgTalk forums, where someone has posted a series of photos, including a whole cooler full of fish pulled from a drainage ditch. Plus, here's a link to an earlier post by the same person, who looks to be the one who made the initial discovery.

Thanks to a member of the ALIENS-L listserver for posting a link to the AgTalk forums.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Seattle Graze

The state of Washington had a trifecta of invasive insects on its doorstep last month, but lucky for Washington state, the door was guarded. According to this press release from US Customs and Border Protection, an inspection of containers arriving from China turned up not only non-native wood wasps, but also bark beetles and dreaded longhorned beetles. The press release doesn't list the exact species, likely because they were found as larvae (inside the wood used as packaging material), which are notoriously difficult to identify. The shipment was denied entry into the US.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Enter The Contest!

Time is running out to enter the ISW's 6th Bloggiversary Contest. Come on, don't you want to win a cool Phragwrites pen?


Saturday, April 26, 2008

Beetle Gone South

Somehow, with all the press coverage of the arrival of the Asian lady beetle (Harmonia axyridis) in the UK, the news that the same species had arrived in South Africa around the same time came in way under the radar. This excellent article (pdf) in the South Africa Journal of Science indicates that it has been present there since at least 2004. Menawhile, the Cape Times is reporting that the beetle was discovered last week in Cape Town, and appears to be spreading quite rapidly through the country. Researchers are tracking this spread, and anyone seeing a suspected Asian lady beetle in South Africa [now don't be bugging them with reports from the US!] is encouraged to photograph it and contact Riaan Stals by phone (012 304 9560) or e-mail (stalsr AT

Update 04/29/08: The Asian lady beetle has now made its first appearance in Australia, though the specimens that were discovered were, thankfully, dead.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

No Spray Zone?

Looks like the Governor of California [ to say...THE GOVERNATOR...oh well] is taking the claims of health risks associated with pheromone spraying for the light brown apple moth seriously. The Almanac, among others, is reporting that following the court decision banning spraying in Santa Cruz County, all aerial spraying for LBAM (Epiphyas postvittana) in the state of California will cease until at least mid-August, so that thorough testing can be done to inform the government of the safety (or lack thereof) of the process.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Shout Out Out Out

Want to have your voice heard? The Oregon Public Broadcasting radio show "Think Out Loud" is featuring invasive species on their next episode, to be broadcast live on Thursday, April 24 (tomorrow!) from 9am to 10am Oregon time (uh, I mean "Pacific Daylight Time" :-)).

The folks from TOL emailed me to let me know about the show, and to invite you, ISW readers, to visit their web page and leave comments or post questions for the panel. If you really have something to say, you can call in during the show at 888-665-5865 or 888-665-5TOL.

Oregoners were recently lucky enough to see the debut of a new movie about invasive species, "The Silent Invasion" - the inspiration for this episode of TOL.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

"Tiny Gardeners" :-D

Interesting little piece in the New York Times today about leaf cutter ants contributing to the spread of invasive plants. A study in Argentina showed that refuse piles left by the ants act as compost heaps that created the perfect environment on which the invasive musk thistle (Carduus nutans) and Scotch thistle (Onopordum acanthium) can thrive. Here's a link to the peer-reviewed article, abstract only unless you've got a subscription.

Feeling A Bit Sluggish

Yet another excellent invasive species article in the Oregon Statesman-Journal on Sunday, this time about non-native slugs and snails. From the brown garden snail (Cornu aspersum) to the grey garden slug (Derocerus reticulatum), it sounds like the lands of Oregon are chock full of slimy, gastropoddy goodness. Be sure to click through to the full article so you can check out their extensive photo gallery (look for the tiny camera icons).

Monday, April 21, 2008

Weekday Photoblogging

Yellow Mess
Originally uploaded by urtica

In a midst of green and brown, a bright yellow flower caught my eye...and turned out to be coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara). When you're out in the woods looking for signs of spring, this isn't really what you're hoping for. Especially when you've been passing by the same spot on the trail for three years and have never seen a leaf nor a fluffy seed head belonging to this forest invader.

I yanked it out - hope there aren't more where this came from

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Natural Anthem

A while back I posted about the geographic distribution of the Argentine ant (Linepithema humile), an invader with a pretty impressive global spread. Alex at the Mymecos blog was nice enough to add a comment on the post with a link to his own Argentine ant range map, which is admittedly much nicer than mine. Even better, he provides a detailed description of how to identify the ant down to species (hint: get out your microscope!), including several amazing photos. Alex did his thesis on the genus Linepithema, surely giving him some serious entomological street cred, if there is such a thing...which there should be! :-)

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Plead Yes Contest

Don't forget that the ISW has a contest going on where you could win your very own Phragwrites invasive species pen! Deadline is April 30th. Click here for details.


Check out today's All Things Considered on NPR and you can listen to (or read about) how reporter Michelle Norris made peace with the fact that the pretty perennial she had bought and planted in her yard in Washington D.C. was the invasive purple loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria). With advice from a local gardener, she determined that she had to, for the good of the environment, get rid of it. Sounds like it was a beast to pull out too!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Camel In The Weed

If you were in North Queensland, Australia last weekend, you could have participated in their first ever camel auction. As reported by the North Queensland Register, the camels (Camelus dromedarius) were being auctioned off as a solution for weed control. ABC Australia notes that the camels, over 1000 of which have been set upon the weeds of one small town (the same one that looks to be holding camel races this May), will eat nasty invaders including lantana (Lantana camara) and parkinsonia (Parkinsonia aculeata). This all seems a bit odd, especially given previous ISW posts about Australia's feral camel problem, but it sounds like a good weed-eating camel will fetch a decent price - up to $600 ($650AUS)!

Thanks to Bill from the Invasive Species of Eastern USA blog for sending in a link to this story.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

The Mighty Phragmites - 6th Bloggiversary Post!

(Psst! Read through to the end to find out about the contest!)

A few months ago I had the opportunity to interview Dave Kellam, creator of what is perhaps the most noteworthy use of an invasive species that I have ever seen: The Phragwrites. Phragwrites are pretty much what you would expect given the name, half pen, half reed hybrids made using the stems of the common reed (Phragmites australis). In the interest of full disclosure, Dave contacted me about a year ago, offering to send me some free samples, and I said "Yes!"...but it was my idea to phone him for an interview.

Dave got his inspiration for the pens through his work as an aquatic resource manager in New Hampshire. He spends much of his time on the coast, where there is plenty of Phragmites to be had. On a roadside walk by a Phragmites patch, Dave broke off a stem, and while admiring the perfect, tapered tube, was "struck by how perfect it would be in manufacturing." After fiddling around with the stem back in the office, he jokingly stuck part of a pen in a stalk, and the concept of a "Phragwrites" was born.

Following a challenge from a colleague in early 2007 to actually implement one of the creative projects he was always imagining, Dave took Phragwrites to the next level, going through the official permitting process required to collect an invasive species in New Hampshire. Dave notes that he didn't have much trouble getting the permit, since harvesting dried Phragmites stems is a "low impact process" that made it easy to avoid spreading the invader. With permit in hand, Dave began production on the first generation of Phragwrites pens. Over the past year, I have followed Dave's progress and observed the morphing of these pens into a variety of plain and fancy styles. I have to say I am impressed by the care and attention to detail that Dave gives to every part of the process, from the collection of materials (he had no problem with my probing questions about how he avoids spreading the plant :-)) to the design of the pens in a way that creates as little waste as possible yet still maintains an aesthetic appeal:


Perhaps the best part about the Phragwrites project is that Dave pledges to give ten percent of his profits to organizations that manage invasive species, and he lets his customers nominate potential recipients and vote for each year's winner. He even made a small donation last year, though he did not make a profit.

The original target audience was "people battling the stuff," but there are now hotel chains and universities expressing an interest in the Phragwrites as a green alternative to the standard pen. Dave notes that right now, sales are so good that "production is the limiting factor," and has been making an effort to invest in equipment to allow him to make pens even faster.

While Dave is happy to have found a use for this invasive weed, he is well aware of the problems it causes, and insists he "would be happy to be put out of business" if it ever were eradicated. In the meantime, though, he has been toying with some new ideas for how to put the stems of bittersweet and Japanese knotweed to good use...

I hope you enjoyed reading this post, which marks the 6-year Bloggiversary of the Invasive Species Weblog!

To celebrate, I'm giving away prizes, including a genuine Phragwrites pen and an item of your choice from the ISW store. To enter, email one of the following to invasiveblog AT knottybits DOT com:

  1. A blog post about invasive species, written by you no earlier than today, 4/13/08.
  2. A news story about invasive species that you think would make a great post here on the ISW.
Deadline for entries is April 30, 2008.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Greater Lesser Celandine

Someone on a listserve I subscribe to sent out a link to this web page demonstrating the monoculture-type spread of lesser celandine (Ranunculus ficaria) within forest understory in the state of Maryland. There are also many detailed photos depicting the tubers and bulbils that lesser celandine uses to reproduce vegetatively, and links to a timeline showing the progress being made as teams attempt to remove the plants from one specific site.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

At The Movies

Oregon Public Broadcasting is set to debut a new movie about invasive species on Earth Day 2008 (April 22). Called "The Silent Invasion", the program aims to "turn Oregonians love of their state into a campaign to protect it from invasive species." Volunteer events are also being held around Oregon in conjunction with the movie's debut.

Head over to the website to catch a sneak preview of the movie, and if you're not lucky enough to live in Oregon, you can order it on DVD.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Are You My Mommy?

Could you kill a creature (or smash its eggs) if it spoke back to you? Julie Zickefoose had a experience of this sort when she came across a starling (Sturnus vulgaris) that called her "Mom!" Check out the story in streaming audio over at NPR's All Things Considered.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Stoner Crock

The Chicago Tribune is reporting that a man has been charged with illegally importing grass carp (Ctenopharyngodon idella) into Texas from Arkansas. Texas allows sterile grass carp, but only with a permit.

The oddest part of this story may be the reasoning behind it: it seems that William Stoner, the man charged with the crime, was using the carp to clear up ponds at the golf course where he makes a living diving for golf balls. Fish and game officials in both Texas and Arkansas broke the case late last year, and since then the grass carp have been disposed of with chemical treatments and replaced with less voracious (and legal) koi.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Rust Monsters

The Frederick News-Post is reporting that concern about the spread of the rusty crayfish (Orconectes rusticus) in Maryland has led to the state's Department of Natural Resources proposing new regulations that will include a ban on using crayfish as bait starting in 2009. In the meantime, the DNR is asking fishermen to avoid releasing any crayfish bait into the wild. The reasoning behind the request is that the native and introduced species are too difficult to tell apart.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

China Trade

Interesting article in the New Scientist about China getting more than it bargained for when it opened up its borders. Boisterous trade with the US and the similar range of climates that the two countries share has led to lots of unintentional species exchanges. While the US deals with pests like the Asian longhorned beetle, China is getting in return such problem species as the fall webworm (Hyphantria cunea) and smooth cordgrass (Spartina alterniflora). The New Scientist article is based on a study published recently in the journal BioScience, and thanks to the generosity of the AIBS, you can read the full text here.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Human Being

The New York Times, among others, is reporting that human beings (Homo sapiens) have officially been added to the US list of invasive species. The article notes that the controversial decision was made mainly due to the ability of humans to act as a vector for transporting other invasive animals, plants and pathogens. There's bound to be a court fight on this in the near future, but for now at least, it sounds like interstate transport of people (air transport, trains and buses) is going to be even more closely regulated than ever before.