Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Sipha maydis, an aphid pest of grasses, found in Colorado

Sipha maydis, a cereal and grass aphid native to Europe, the Middle East, Asia and parts of Africa, was first found outside of its native range in 2002 when it was discovered in Argentina.  In North America, it has been sighted in California (2007), Florida (2011 and 2012), and Georgia (2012) but the aphids were not on host plants and so couldn't reproduce.  The first confirmed encounter in a host-crop was 2014 in Albuquerque, NM on oats.  This past February, another colony has been found in Mesa county, Colorado. This colony was discovered in winter annual grasses and annual wheatgrass  by Bob Hammon, an enotmologist and extension agent from Colorado State University Tri-River Area Extension.

S. maydis, currently without a common name, feeds primarily on more mature grasses and causes yellowing or chlorosis of the plant leaves.  It is also a vector for barley yellow dwarf virus, a destructive disease of small grain crops.

common wheat (Triticum aestivum) by Howard F. Schwartz, Colorado State University, Bugwood.org

The first colony in Albuquerque: New Invasive Aphid Pest Found in Albuquerque Area
The first colonies in Colorado: Sipha maydis: A Potential Threat to Colorado Wheat Production
High Plains Integrated Pest Management wiki article on Sipha maydis: HPIPM:Sipha maydis

Friday, March 27, 2015

Invasive Asian and Formosan termites team-up to form superswarms and are beginning to hybridize

Formosan subterranean termites (Coptotermes formosanus) and Asian subterranean termites (C. gestroi) are from two separate parts of Asia and wouldn't naturally meet.  In fact, not only are they geographically separated, their fertile swarms happen at different times.  Or, rather, this was the case.  Both species have been introduced to Florida and, as of 2013, have been found to swarm at the same time.  Swarming is when the winged reproductive termites, called alates, fly to new areas to start new colonies.  New research by Chouvenc et al. found that not only were they swarming at the same time, but were able to hybridize.  In fact, in their laboratory, it was noted that the Asian termites preferred the female Formosan termites over their own females.  The hybrids termite colonies were found to develop faster than the non-hybrid colonies, with the hybrid colonies producing twice the number of termites to the non-hybrid colonies.  As it can take several years for a colony to become mature and produce alates, it is currently unknown the impact this will have long-term on the invasive termite population and spread in Florida.

formosan subterranean termite (Coptotermes formosanus) by Scott Bauer, USDA Agricultural Research Service, Bugwood.org

To read the featured research article: Two most destructive termite species forming superswarms in South Florida
To read the journal article: Hybridization of Two Major Termite Invaders as a Consequence of Human Activity

Thursday, March 26, 2015

World Register of Introduced Marine Species

A catalog of more than a thousand alien species found in Earth’s oceans launched this week. The World Register of Introduced Marine Species describes an initial 1457 species within the comprehensive World Register of Marine Species (launched in 2007) that have been spread by humans beyond their historic ranges. To create the list, a team of researchers sponsored by the Flanders Marine Institute in Ostend, Belgium, and the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Invasive Species Specialist Group spent 2 years compiling databases of invasive species and consulting nearly 2500 scientific papers….

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

2015 FWC/IFAS Research Review for Invasive Plants in Florida

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s (FWC) Invasive Plant Management Section and the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants (CAIP) held its biannual Research and Outreach Review Meeting at the UF/IFAS Orange County Extension Office in Orlando, Florida on March 4-5, 2015. The purpose of this meeting was to exchange current scientific research and outreach information on invasive plant management in Florida. The 1.5 day research and outreach review was attended by over one hundred participants and included university and government scientists, federal, state, and local government resource managers, and outreach professionals.

A link to the meeting agenda and to the PowerPoint presentations in PDF format can be found at the UF/IFAS CAIP website here

The meeting was coordinated by Mr. Don Schmitz (FWC) and Dr. Bill Haller (UF/IFAS-CAIP).

Massive die-off of Sierra Nevada trees; With drought comes beetles

Thousands of acres on public and private lands are home to dead and dying trees, and this makes forestry and fire officials concerned.  Western pine beetles thrive in drought, when the Ponderosa pines natural sap defenses are weakened, and only wet years will reduce populations.  All types of conifer trees are being affected by the drought, with some succumbing to drought and some from the bark beetles that are moving in.  Either way, large numbers of dead trees are a fire hazard and are being removed on public lands and private at a cost of upwards of hundreds of dollars per tree.  Those in the logging industry blame the Forest Service for not allowing thinning on public lands, but natural resources economist John T. Austin likens the current tree mortality to a hot patchy fire.  While the trees aren't being selectively thinned by the drought and the bark beetles, but it will leave behind the healthier trees and a greater diversity.

mountain pine beetle (Dendroctonus ponderosae) on ponderosa pine near Antero Jct, South Park,CO by William M. Ciesla, Forest Health Management International, Bugwood.org
*Note: image is not from current drought

To view the article: Sierra Nevada pine tree die-off worsens as beetles thrive in drought
To view a map of the drought: U.S. Drought Monitor

Leaf odor attracts Drosophila suzukii

See article here: http://phys.org/news/2015-03-leaf-odor-drosophila-suzukii.html and here: http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs10886-015-0544-3

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Fill in the Gaps! Chinese wisteria (Wisteria sinensis)

It's hard to believe that the first day of spring is tomorrow, especially for those still shoveling snow!  The first Chinese wisteria (Wisteria sinensis) flowers have been spotted in south Georgia and now is a good time to keep an eye out for infested areas.

Chinese wisteria (Wisteria sinensis) by Robert Vidéki, Doronicum Kft., Bugwood.org

EDDMapS is Bugwood's website for mapping and reporting invasive species nationwide.  It includes data from all types of sources, herbariums to homeowners and federal agencies to citizen scientist programs.  It relies on accurate and quality reports of invasive species occurrences to fill in the maps to show a complete distribution of a species.  As Chinese wisteria is most easily seen when it is flowering, help us fill in the gaps on the map in the next several weeks!

The easiest way to report where you find Chinese wisteria is to use one of the BugwoodApps!  The SEEDN app is an app for reporting invasive species occurrences for the southeastern U.S. and is available on iOS (Apple products) and Android devices.  If you don't have a smartphone, tablet, or other such device, you can report findings through EDDMapS. Remember to take a picture of the plants you find with your report!  Once your reports are verified, it will color in the map where data is currently missing.  Happy scouting!

To view distribution maps of Chinese Wisteria: Chinese wisteria distribution
For identification information and other resources on Chinese wisteria: Chinese wisteria information
To view images of Chinese wisteria: Chinese wisteria images

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Planting commences after three years negative for plum pox in NY!

Plum pox virus (PPV) is considered the world's most devastating stone fruit virus.  Not only does it cause low yield, but the fruit that is produced is blemished and unmarketable.  It affects members of the Prunus genus, which includes plums, peaches, nectarines, apricots, cherries, almonds, and can also infect wild and ornamental Prunus species.  There are six known strains of PPV: D, M, EA, C, W, and PPV-Rec (Recombinant), though PPV-D is the only one currently known in the U.S.  First described in Bulgaria in 1915, the first detection of PPV in North America was in Pennsylvania in 1999.  In 1997 it was found in Ontario and in 2006 it was discovered in New York and Michigan.

Plum Pox Virus (Potyvirus PPV) by Biologische Bundesanstalt für Land- und Forstwirtschaft Archive, Biologische Bundesanstalt für Land- und Forstwirtschaft, Bugwood.org

After plum pox was discovered in New York, infects areas were declared "regulated" which means that all plant materials and parts which may spread plum pox may not be moved interstate and no susceptible Prunus spp. may be planted.  When surveys in a specific area cannot detect plum pox for three consecutive years, plum pox is declared eradicated in that area.  Pennsylvania and Michigan have already be declared free of plum pox and it is also eradicated in Orleans and Wayne counties in New York.  This is the third year New York has tested negative for plum pox and so the 14,400 acres in Niagara county has moved to a "quarantine" area, which means that Prunus species may now be planted in the area again.  There are still going to be some restrictions on the amount of acres planted and Ontario has yet to eradicate the virus, so the State Department of Agriculture is moving ahead with caution.

For more on the announcement: Planting ban lifted in local orchards
To learn more about plum pox: Plum pox

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

National Ag Awareness Day Coming Up

March 18 is National Ag Awareness Day!

Farm Equipment by Gerald Holmes, California Polytechnic State University at San Luis Obispo, Bugwood.org

Want to know more about Ag Awareness day? Visit Ag Day FAQ to learn about it.  So what is your state or area doing to spread Ag Awareness?

Here are some states that are participating in Agriculture events!

Washington DC: AgDay and the Events for Ag Day

Georgia:  Ag Awareness week

California: California Ag Day

Iowa:  Ag Day Photo Contest

Colorado:  Celebrate Ag Day

Connecticut: Calendar

Montana: National Agriculture Day

South Dakota (City of Huron): Agriculture Calendar

Michigan: How Michigan communities are celebrating National Ag Week

New Hampshire: Agriculture Calendar

Monday, March 16, 2015

Nebraska Preparing for Incoming Emerald Ash Borer

As emerald ash borer (Agrilus planipennis) is marching its way across the U.S. and due to wide reporting of new locations, communities in the path can plan for its arrival.  Emerald ash borer (EAB) has been found in Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, and Missouri, states which border Nebraska and ash trees comprising 40% of the state's public trees, it's only a matter of time before the invasion begins.

Nebraska Forest Service estimates that it will EAB will cost Nebraska $270 million for state and local governments and $690 million for the private sector, for a total of $960 million for tree removal, disposal, and replacement.  A monitoring network is already in place for surveying for EAB and while currently none have been discovered, communities have also begun to map ash trees and mark areas of priority.  Lincoln Sen. Patty Pansing Brooks has proposed Legislative Bill 461, a bill to set aside money, $3 million annually where money would be provided to local governments as matching grants on a 50-50 basis, to help local communities remove and dispose of ash trees, as well as replace the lost trees.  A community hearing on the bill will occur on March 19.

emerald ash borer (Agrilus planipennis) by Jared Spokowsky, Indiana Department of Natural Resources, Bugwood.org

For more information about the preparations: It's inevitable: Invasive pest will arrive in Nebraska, kill ash trees, costing an estimated $960M

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Termites travel by pineapples; Philadelphia Customs and Border Patrol find stowaway

On February 10th, a crate of pineapples from the Dominican Republic was found to be infested with live termites.  The wood packaging material was contained 20 live termites and subsequent identification by an entomologist found this to be Cryptotermes sp. Area Port of Philadelphia determined this to be a first-in-port discovery of that genus.  Wood packaging material from an earlier shipment of pineapples on February 5th from the Dominican Republic was also found to be heavily infested and 43 termite specimens were captured.  Due to the infestation issues, Customs and Border Patrol has ordered all wood packaging material to be re-exported to the Dominican Republic.

west indian powderpost drywood termite (Cryptotermes brevis) by Pest and Diseases Image Library, Bugwood.org 

To read more on the find: Philly CBP Intercepts New Destructive Termite Species in Pineapple Shipment from Dominican Republic

Note: Image above is not one of the termites discovered by CBP

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Invasive species threaten traditions

Most of the time that invasive species are discussed it is in terms of the impacts on the ecosystem, on trade, on travel, and so forth.  Not often does the conversation turn towards how invasive species affect our traditions.  Considering that the U.S. is a land of constant movement and advancement, our traditions are usually only a few generations old and not so entrenched as some other cultures that have existed for several hundred or even thousands of years.  However, the native peoples that were here long before the U.S. existed have a culture steeped in tradition and are now having to think about things in ways that they never had to before invasive species came to their lands.

Native Hawaiians thrive on the concept of the Aloha Spirit.  They are a very giving and friendly people and this can become an issue when dealing with invasive species as living on an island chain brings a new dimension to transmission of invasive species.  When an invasive species is brought to one island it may only take a friend bringing a plant cutting to their friend the next island over to spread quickly though the chain.  This sharing and giving spirit, a trait at the core of their culture, is having to be checked against the potential environmental impacts of spreading invasive species.

A native alpine mirrorplant (Coprosma montana) in Hawaii by Forest and Kim Starr, Starr Environmental, Bugwood.org

To read more on how invasive species have impacted Hawaiian traditions:Cultural practice of sharing island bounty hampered by invasive species

Friday, March 6, 2015

Pathways of Invasion: Suez Canal Expansion Project

The Mediterranean Sea is a relatively closed-off water body, with one of the main outlets being the 146 year-old Suez Canal.  This canal is relatively narrow, only 1,000 ft wide at its narrowest point, and is a vital shipping route between Europe and Asia.  Due to its smaller size, Egypt has planned to expand the canal, and in parts it will be a parallel canal, to increase the shipping speed and capabilities in the region.  Invasive species are already a reality in the Mediterranean due to the Suez Canal, with over 350 species introduced, the most concerning being puffer fish and venomous jellyfish.  The widening and deepening of the canal concerns scientists, as it can create a more stable environment and allow for more species to find their way into the Mediterranean.  While conservationists and environmentalists have raised their concerns, the economic potential of increased shipping traffic has allowed the plans to move forward and the expansion is expected to be completed within 2015.

For more on the subject: Delivering Unwelcome Species to the Mediterranean

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Hurricanes spread lionfish far and wide

Hurricanes moving through the Gulf of Mexico influenced the spread of lionfish.  Whereas the normal flow of the Florida Current would have contained the population of lionfish to the Straits of  Florida, hurricanes disrupted the current and pushed lionfish into the Bahamas.  Between 1992 and 2006, researchers identified 23 instances where hurricanes provided lionfish the opportunity to breach the current. Introduction into the Bahamas, and no longer confined by the Florida Current, spread of lionfish increased by 45% and their population by 15%.

lionfish (Pterois volitans) by Rebekah D. Wallace, University of Georgia, Bugwood.org

For more on the study: Hurricanes help spread invasive marine species, researchers find
And: Hurricanes helped accelerate spread of lionfish

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Citizen Science for the Long View

Widely considered the Father of Phenology, Robert Marsham was very interested in documenting what he would call "The Indicators of Spring."  These are documentations of weather, animal, and plant activities and measurements which he and his descendants collected from 1736 to 1958. Of current interest for scientists studying the effects of climate change on the environment, they recorded the spring leafing and flowering time of the woodland plants on their estate in Norfolk.  This account is one of the longest running phenology records worldwide.

In a recent study, scientists from the University of Edinburgh and Biomathematics & Statistics Scotland used the data gathered by the Marsham family, and weather data gathered from the Central England temperature (CET) record, and evaluated the effect of temperature on fourteen species.  The study found that while all species will leaf and flower sooner after experiencing a warmer spring, a warm autumn will affect some early season leafing trees, such as birch, as compared to the later season leafing trees, like oak.  This effect may be due to certain species' chilling requirements and it is predicted that if seasonal temperatures continue to increase, oak may come into leafing earlier than birch over time.

river birch (Betula nigra) by T. Davis Sydnor, The Ohio State University, Bugwood.org

The unfortunate reality is that most data becomes lost or forgotten after the project ends.  Citizen science programs can be very useful in that new people can be continually added to the project and the data collecting can live on through new membership.  Citizen science programs similar to the work that the Marsham family did for so long exist in Project Budburst, Nature's Notebook, the National Phenology Network and many other projects.

For more on the study: Family log of spring's arrival helps predict climate-driven change
For more about Robert Marsham: Robert Marsham and Robert Marsham: The father of springtime records
For more information and a list of Citizen Science Programs: Scientific American - Citizen Science

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Asian carp on the menu for native fish

bighead carp (Hypophthalmichthys nobilis) by U.S. Geological Survey Archive, U.S. Geological Survey, Bugwood.org

Asian carp is a common name for several species of fish introduced from Asia.  The two most concerning of the species are silver carp (Hypophthalmichthys molitrix) and bighead carp (H. nobilis), which were brought to the U.S. in the 1970s for use in aquaculture ponds and water treatment systems.  It is thought that flooding in the 1990s allowed the carp to escape into the Mississippi River system where they are trying to make their way into the Great Lakes.  The primary concern with the introduction of these fish is their voracious appetite for plankton, which is a primary food source for larval fish, native mussels, and some adult fish. Current methods of slowing the spread of Asian carp haven't been entirely successful, as they have been found to move beyond electric barriers meant to exclude them from moving further up the Mississippi River.

However, at the recent Midwest Fish & Wildlife Conference, a presentation by Cory Anderson of Western Illinois University showed that some native fish have begun to prey upon Asian carp.  Not only were the Asian carp being fed upon opportunistically, they were finding that certain species' stomach contents indicated that they were deliberately selecting Asian carp as a food source.  Due to the size of the carp, most of the predation occurred on immatures and small adults.  However, blue catfish is a quite large species and found to have consumed carp as large as 22-40 inches long.  Blue catfish aren't native to the Great Lakes, but there is another large catfish, flathead catfish, which may find room on their plate for Asian carp.

For more on the findings: Asian carp being eaten by native fish, new studies find