Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Not a one-way street: yellow sugarcane aphid native to North America found in Europe

In the U.S. we may often forget that other countries have their own issues with invasive species.  the yellow sugarcane aphid (Sipha flava) was recently found in northeast Spain in two different municipalities, La Selva del Camp (province of Tarragona) and Blanes (province of Girona) and is believed to have come to Spain by way of north Africa.  While surgarcane is not a major crop in Europe, the aphid is known to feed on other species of grasses and it is not known what the impact may be on other important grass crops in Europe, such as rice and corn.

Sipha flava by Kansas Department of Agriculture Archive,

For more information on the find: Yellow Sugarcane Aphid Detected in Continental Europe

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Play, Clean, Go Webinar

Weed Wrangle: A Template for Engaging Local Communities through a Citywi...

UGA coming to the rescue of hemlocks

For the first time, University of Georgia researchers have successfully cryogenically frozen germplasm from hemlock trees being wiped out across the eastern U.S. by an invasive insect. They've also unlocked a new way to clone the few hemlock trees apparently fighting off the hemlock woolly adelgid, which could potentially lead to a solution for the pest.
In a new paper published in Trees-Structure and Function, researchers in UGA's Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources outline how they were able to generate hemlock tissue cultures, cryogenically store them and then grow plants from the cultures after thawing them several months later-the first to successfully do so.
As part of their efforts to freeze the germplasm, they also developed a method that will allow them to clone hemlocks, particularly important as they seek to propagate trees naturally resistant to the insect that has destroyed millions of hemlocks in 18 states since it was accidently introduced into the eastern U.S.
There are only two native hemlock species in the eastern U.S.-eastern and Carolina-and both are in terrible danger from an insect that first appeared in Virginia in the 1950s. The hemlock woolly adelgid, a pest native to East Asia, kills hemlocks possibly by injecting a toxin into the trees while feeding on sap. It has spread from Virginia and virtually exploded in the Appalachians, said Warnell professor Scott Merkle.
"It looks like a bomb went off where there were once pure hemlocks," Merkle explained. "It's just dead trees because there doesn't seem to be much natural resistance."
Merkle, who is also Warnell's associate dean of research, was lead author on the paper and worked with Warnell researchers Paul Montello, Hannah Reece and Lisheng Kong.
Hemlocks protect stream banks from erosion, provide food and shelter for deer and other wildlife and keep trout streams cool with their shade. Because of its importance to forest ecosystems, researchers say it is vital that the tree be preserved.
One 2009 study by the U.S. Forest Service said woolly adelgids could kill most of the hemlocks in the Appalachian region in a matter of years if the insect remains unchecked. Unfortunately, researchers are not yet sure how the insect is even killing hemlocks. They believe that it is inserting its stylet-a sharp, pointed nose-under the leaf, through the base and into the tissue that carries sugar around the tree. The tree then essentially shuts down, loses needles and eventually dies.
A number of researchers are studying ways to fight the infestation, including the possibility of introducing some sort of biocontrol or predator to eat the adelgids. Merkle is looking at ways to not only introduce natural resistance to newly planted hemlocks, but also to successfully store hemlock germplasm cryogenically to conserve it in case a solution isn't found before they are wiped out.
Long-term storage of hemlock germplasm has been hindered because seeds from the trees have lost viability after being stored under refrigeration after two to four years, meaning that once planted, they won't germinate and grow into thriving plants. The U.S. Forest Service is growing collections of hemlocks outside the range of the adelgid to conserve their germplasm, but this approach requires maintenance of the trees in areas where hemlocks are not found naturally.
Merkle and his research team took a different approach to standard storage methods: Using seeds from surviving hemlocks collected by cooperators at the Alliance for Saving Threatened Forests and North Carolina State University, they created in vitro cultures of a number of eastern and Carolina hemlocks that they then froze in liquid nitrogen at minus 196 degrees Celsius-something no one else had successfully done. The researchers cryofroze several samples from different hemlock lines from around the Southeast for several months, then thawed them out, allowed them to regrow and began to produce trees from them. Of the five hemlock lines they tested, all samples of three Carolina lines and one eastern hemlock line regrew after coming out of cryostorage.
Merkle says the ability to cryostore and recover hemlock cultures, followed by production of new trees from them, provides a practical approach for storing the germplasm of a large number of trees indefinitely, so that the species can be repopulated once a system to deal with the adelgid is in place.
Being able to grow them after they're thawed won't make them resistant to the woolly adelgid, Merkle said, but it does mean that if need be, researchers might be able to save samples of the hemlocks from extinction. These cultures also allow the researchers to assist with testing other methods of introducing resistance to the insect, including trying to create clones of hybrids with Asian hemlocks that do have a natural resistance to the woolly adelgids.
Some individual hemlock trees in the U.S. appear to be naturally resistant, Merkle said, so he and his team are working on ways to determine if the resistance is genetically based. They'll do that by collecting seeds from these trees that have survived the insect infestation and creating embryogenic cultures that they can then use to clone single trees. Because these surviving trees are all genetically different, researchers can't really tell what key factor makes them resistant to the woolly adelgid.
But if 20 trees are planted that are all members of the same clone, clonal testing can be done to try to narrow down why particular trees can fight the pest. And once a genetic line is identified that is resistant, Merkle said, "You can then hand seedlings out to people to start planting."

Kochia scoparia's Mechanism for Resistance to Glyphosate Discovered

Glyphosate resistant kochia (Kochia scoparia) was first confirmed in Kansas in 2007 (  Since then, it has been found in South Dakota, North Dakota, Montana, Colorado, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Oregon, Idaho, Wyoming, Alberta (Can), Manitoba (Can), and Saskatchewan (Can).  In fact, in Montana and the three Canadian provinces, there have been populations of kochia with multiple herbicide resistance (resistance to more than one site of action) found; kochia resistant to glyphosate and another type of herbicide.  Discovering how a species evolves resistance to a herbicide can aid researchers in not only learning about the plants, their genetic make-up, and how they are able to withstand stressful conditions, but also may help the researchers to figure out ways to work around the mechanism causing the resistance.

Mostly, instances of glyphosate resistance in other species have been via:

  • Reduced translocation - i.e. herbicide is absorbed by the plant, but not moved within the plant to where it has an effect (target site), or
  • Mutations in the target site - change within the plant at the target site which prevents the herbicide from interacting or binding (ex: the plant changes the "locks" (target site) in its "house" (entire plant) and so the "key" (herbicide) can't get in.)

A recent paper by Jugulam et al. (Tandem amplification of a chromosomal segment harboring 5-enolpyruvylshikimate-3-phosphate synthase locus confers glyphosate resistance in Kochia scoparia, 2014) evaluated how some kochia populations are now resistant to glyphosate.  They found that the type of resistance displayed by the kochia populations they observed was amplification of the genes which produce EPSPS (the target for glyphosate).  Resistant populations were found to have 9-16 copies of the gene, whereas sensitive populations have only 2 copies.  Having more copies of the gene means that more of the target (EPSP) can be produced than the recommended amount of glyphosate will be able to bind up and so the plants can survive when sprayed.  This is the first reported instance of gene amplification on a single chromosome conferring field-evolved herbicide resistance in weeds.

Kochia scoparia. Leslie J. Mehrhoff, University of Connecticut,

For more on the discovery: Invasive weed Kochia's resistance to well-known herbicide stems from increase in gene copies

European Union Regulation on the prevention and management of the introduction and spread of invasive alien species

of 22 October 2014 went in force January 1, 2015.  

Invasive Alien Species are animals and plants that are introduced accidentally or deliberately into a natural environment where they are not normally found, with serious negative consequences for their new environment. They represent a major threat to native plants and animals in Europe, causing damage worth millions of euros every year.

The new European Union Regulation on invasive alien species was published in the Official Journal on 4 November 2014. It went into force on 1 January 2015. The new regulation seeks to address the problem of invasive alien species in a comprehensive manner so as to protect native biodiversity and ecosystem services, as well as to minimize and mitigate the human health or economic impacts that these species can have.

The regulation foresees three types of interventions; prevention, early warning and rapid response, and management. A list of invasive alien species of Union concern will be drawn up and managed with Member States using risk assessments and scientific evidence.

For background information and The EU Commission Communication click Towards an EU Strategy on Invasive Species

Monday, February 23, 2015

Landscape Scale Invasive Plant Control Projects

Emerald Ash Borer Found in Louisiana

Louisiana makes the 25th state where emerald ash borer (Agrilus planipennis) has been found.  On February 18, 2015, Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry (LDAF) reported that EAB damaged trees were found in Webster Parish, LA and subsequent investigation uncovered EAB larva in a 2 acre area.

Seven years ago, in anticipation of EAB, LDAF began surveying forests using sticky pheromone traps.  After EAB was discovered in Arkanasas in July, 2014, LDAF, in concert with the U.S. Forest Service (USFS), USDA-APHIS Plant Protection and Quarantine (USDA-PPQ), and Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), developed an EAB response plan.  The plan was comprised of three main functions: surveys, outreach, and regulatory oversight.  Industry and academia has also been involved in the education and outreach efforts.

Emerald Ash Borer by David Cappaert, Michigan State University,

To read more on the EAB find in Louisiana: Emerald Ash Borer in Louisiana

Friday, February 20, 2015

Parliament of the United Kingdom - Infrastructure Act 2015, a new effort in controlling invasive species

Some news from our friends across the Atlantic.  It is estimated that the economic impact of invasive species in the UK is at least £1.8 billion a year.  They have many of the same invasives that plague the US (e.g. Japanese knotweed, giant hogweed, water hyacinth, Egyptian goose, nutria, etc.) and also have many of the same problems with controlling the spread across their country.  Included in Infrastructure Act 2015, which discusses building planning, the role of police officers, highways, and energy, was PART 4: Environmental control of animal and plant species.  

This piece of the law covered amendments to the list of species considered non-native as well as gives an environmental authority a new role and permissions in invasive species control on private property.  When an environmental authority has determined that an invasive species is present within private property, the property owners may enter into a "Species Control Agreement" with the environmental authority.  This agreement outlines the objectives, the responsible party, the plan of control, limitations of the Agreement/control measures, timeline, and if there are any issues of payment in regard to the control efforts.  

If there is a breakdown in the "Species Control Agreement," under certain circumstances (i.e. failure to comply with the agreement, emergency, or no identifiable owner), the environmental authority has the ability to issue "Species Control Orders."  Depending on the conditions of the issue of the Order, the scope of the provisions are limited but are similar to the Agreement (e.g. identification of parties involved in control efforts, indication of payment for control efforts, timeline, etc.).  However, non-compliance with the Order has defined processes for Enforcement and Offenses.  Property owners have the right to appeal offenses and to seek compensation for damage due to eradication efforts.

The law has also defined the Powers of Entry on all property for investigation and carrying-out of "Species Control Agreements" and "Species Control Orders" and lists the conditions and authorising entities under which an individual may enter a property.

To view the law passed: Infrastructure Act 2015

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Bald eagles are starting to flourish again - but hold the confetti

See Washington Post article:

FWC, partners coordinate first statewide Nonnative Fish Catch, Click and Submit Contest

As part of National Invasive Species Awareness Week, Feb. 22-28, the Florida Fish And Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) will be partnering with other agencies to coordinate the first statewide Nonnative Fish Catch, Click and Submit Contest.
Partners are the U.S. Geological Survey, National Park Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Florida Invasive Species Partnership, University of Georgia, and Everglades Cooperative Invasive Species Management Area. The partnership plans to hold the event annually with the help of citizen scientists.
Contest submissions will help researchers better understand the distribution of nonnative fishes in Florida. To participate, anglers are asked to photograph and report their nonnative fish catch during the contest period, Feb. 21 – March 1.
The Catch, Click and Submit Contest will increase public awareness of nonnative species and encourage anglers to target nonnative fish for consumption. Florida is home to at least 34 species of reproducing nonnative fishes, and new species continue to be found. Nonnative fish may impact native fish communities, particularly as the number of species increases.
Florida has a large number of canals and lakes, which are not frequently sampled for nonnative fish.
“The Catch, Click and Submit Contest offers anglers the opportunity to assist natural resource managers in finding nonnative species by doing what they enjoy – fishing!” said FWC biologist Kelly Gestring. The early detection of a new, nonnative species could provide a better opportunity to control or even eradicate a population.
“Anglers can help protect their waterways by finding and reporting these fish before they get out of control,” Gestring said.
The Nonnative Fish Catch, Click and Submit Contest will be open to all licensed or legally exempt anglers in the state of Florida. There is no entry fee and prizes will be awarded. Entries can be submitted throughout the contest period but the final submissions must be made by midnight on Sunday, March 1. For more information on the contest and prizes visit and click on the contest under Quick Links. To register and start submitting reports on your mobile device visit or download the reporting app by searching for IveGot1 in the app store.

Don't Forget to Declare your Food Items at the Airport

For the fifth time in the last few months, Khapra beetles (Trogoderma granarium) have been found stowing away in passengers bags at the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport.  The insect was found in packages of rice, dried beans, coriander seeds, and fava beans from Sudan and India.  After cast skins and live larvae were discovered, the packages were destroyed.  Khapra beetles are the only insect that require regulatory action when found dead or alive due to the destructive nature of the species which infests and destroys stored grains such as rice, wheat, and oats.

For more information, read Travelers Bring One Of World’s Worst Invasive Species Through DFW

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Invasive Species Webinars - Register Now!

The National Association of Invasive Plant Councils (NAIPC) will be conducting five webinars Feb. 23-27, 2015 during the National Invasive Species Awareness Week.
“With limited travel resources, these webinars provide a great opportunity for professionals and citizens to stay informed with the latest in invasive species management, education and policy issues from the comfort of their own office or home” – Doug Johnson, Chair of the National Association of Invasive Plant Councils.
The webinars will be hosted by the Center for Invasive Species and Ecosystem Health at the University of Georgia, and will be led by experts in their field of study.
The webinars are as follows: 
Monday, Feb. 23: Landscape-scale Invasive Plant Control Projects – Chris Evans, Illinois Wildlife Action Plan
·       Nick Seaton and Caleb Grantham, Southern Illinois Invasive Species Strike Team, The Nature Conservancy
·       Cheryl Millett, Central Florida Lygodium Strategy, The Nature Conservancy
·       Carmen Chapin, Great Lakes Exotic Plant Management Team, National Park Service
Tuesday, Feb. 24: Play, Clean, Go – Laura Van Riper, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources
Wednesday, Feb. 25: Invasive Plant Listing: Taking it up a Notch with a National Standard – Nancy Loewenstein, Auburn University
Thursday, Feb. 26: EDDMapS, Smartphones and the NAISMA Mapping Standards – Chuck Bargeron, University of Georgia
Friday, Feb. 27: Don’t Move Firewood, What we can do for you – Leigh Greenwood, Don’t Move Firewood Campaign Manager, The Nature Conservancy
Each webinar will begin at 3 p.m. EST and end approximately 4 p.m. EST.               
Registration free and is available at

Caught in the act: Aquatic invasives hitchhiking on boats

2014 was the first year that Lake George instituted a mandatory boat inspection program and evaluated over 22,000 boats between May and December.   During those seven months, inspectors found 165 cases of non-native species tagging along.  In addition to finding boats contaminated with Eurasian milfoil, zebra mussels, and curly leaf pondweed, species which are already present in Lake George, there were two instances of unidentified snails and eight instances of water chestnut discovered neither of which are present in Lake George.  

To read more about the program read Checks detected invasive species

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Controlling cane toads in Australia

Cane toads were introduced to Australia in 1935 in an attempt to control insects which were feeding on the sugar cane crops.  While they don't appear to have had much impact on the insects they were supposed to target, they have become an incredibly successful invasive species.  The toads spread disease, most species which try to eat the toads will succumb to the poison, and have caused a decrease in biodiversity and populations numbers among many native insectivores, often by the toads consuming the same prey.  There have been many methods tried to control the toads' spread, but none have been very successful.  Trapping, sterile male releases, and introduction of a virus have all been evaluated, but ineffectiveness and serious concerns of off-target, native species effects and have put a halt to these studies.

However, a new study has come up with a promising solution.  As cane toads are not native to Australia, they are not acclimated to the dry, hot seasons and survive by visiting human-made dams to cool down.  By putting up toad-proof fences they are unable to enter the dams and, as the toads are still drawn to the water, the dams act as large scale traps and toads will perish outside the fences.  Furthermore, due to the outright reduction in toad population and fewer surviving toads to spawn a new generation, areas around fenced dams have shown that the number of toads are repressed the next year.  Areas around unfenced dams have a population 10 to 100 times higher.  By limiting the toads' access to open water, this method could help slow the invasion across arid regions of Australia.

To read the article detailing the efforts: Long-term control of cane toads demonstrated

Monday, February 16, 2015

Citizen scientists learn how to snag a snake

On the first of February, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission conducted a training session to teach 20 volunteers how to identify and capture invasive snakes that are plaguing Florida.  An important part of the training involved teaching the differences in native and non-native snakes, since only the invasive snakes are causing issues in the ecosystems.  Using poles and bags, the volunteers were shown, and later supervised in, how to capture the several pythons that were brought in for the workshop.  The training workshops are part of the permitting process that volunteers can apply for to capture non-native snakes on certain FWC-owned properties.  This program is not without its critics, as some believe that it is a dangerous to send non-professional out after large constrictors and that the program may not even be effective.  However, this program will also serve to educate the public on the presence of the various non-native snakes that now inhabit Florida.  To read the article on the training.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Building a better boat... to prevent invasive species spread

The best way to slow the spread of invasive species, is to make it hard for them to hitch-along.  By changing the design of the typical pontoon boat, a Minnesota manufacturer has reduced the number of places that aquatic species can hide during cleaning and between bodies of water.  Previously, they kept the design a secret to have an edge over their competitors, but they are now sharing the improvements with the rest of the industry to encourage others to help stem the spread of aquatic invaders.  Read further to learn about their changes and goals.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Ten Most Important Invasive Species in North America in 2015

The Ten Most Important Invasive Species or Invasive Species Assemblages in North America in 2015

The North American Invasive Species Network (NAISN) was formed in 2010 by university and government scientists across North America. Presently, the network is comprised of university centers, non-profit organizations, and government institutions that are addressing invasive species issues such as prevention, management, research, and education and outreach in Canada, Mexico, and the United States. NAISN's overall goal is to enhance multi- jurisdictional responses to biological invasions across the continent.

Once a year NAISN identifies the ten most important invasive species or invasive species assemblages in North America based on their ability to invade a wide geographic area on public conservation lands and waterways, their ecological and/or economic impacts, and/or their potential for or actual human health impacts. This list will evolve and change through time as new invasive species emerge in North America especially because of climate change. NAISN also recognizes that many other invasive species are locally or regionally important and cause significant economic, health, and/or environmental damage.

In 2015, the Ten Most Important Invasive Species or Invasive Species Assemblages in North America are (in common name alphabetical order):

Asian Carp Assemblage:
Grass carp (Ctenopharyngodon idella) 
Silver carp (Hypophthalmichthys molitrix) 
Bighead carp (H. nobilis)
Black carp (Mylopharyngodon piceus)
Asian gypsy moth (Lymantria dispar) 
Burmese python (Python bivittatus) 
Emerald Ash borer (Agrilus planipennis) 
Eurasian wild pig (Sus scrofa)
Lionfish (Pterois spp.) 
Hydrilla (Hydrilla verticillata)
Mussel Assemblage:
Quagga Mussels (Dreissena bugensis) 
Zebra mussels (Dreissena polymorpha)
Purple loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria) 
Salt cedar (Tamarix spp.)

To learn more about invasive species or to comment on this list, please contact: Don C. Schmitz, NAISN Managing Director at 

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