Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Everyone on the lookout for spotted lanternfly in PA

Last year, spotted lanternfly (Lycorma delicatula) was discovered in Berks county, PA and quickly became the target of eradication efforts.  This year, USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service is partnering with the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture and has contributed over $1 million in funding in the Farm Bill for this pest issue.  After discovering the lanternfly, PDA designated the quarantine area and restricted the movement of potential host material to protect surrounding areas.  It especially important to restrict the movement of host material. as the lanternfly moves by walking, jumping, and flying short distances, so large movements are primarily a result of humans moving infested plant materials or objects with egg masses attached.

Not only are the government agencies involved in the effort, but local citizens are volunteering their time to set traps to identify the current range of the lanternfly.  Outreach programs are educating the public on what to look for and the rules/laws of the quarantine.

spotted lanternfly (Lycorma delicatula) by Lawrence Barringer, Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, Bugwood.org

Source Article: APHIS Partners with Pennsylvania to Fight the Spotted Lanternfly
Spotted Lanternfly Images- Lycorma delicatula

Monday, June 29, 2015

Experimental Biocontrol Agent Released for Hemlock Woolly Adelgid

While the hemlock woolly adelgid (Adelges tsugae) was introduced to the western U.S. in the 1920s, DNA evidence indicates that the population in the eastern U.S. came from eastern Asia.  The western hemlock (Tsuga heterophylla) are resistant to their population of adelgid due to the trees similarities to native asian hemlock, but the eastern (Tsuga canadensis) and Carolina (Tsuga caroliniana) hemlocks are more susceptible and can be killed by the infestation.

hemlock woolly adelgid (Adelges tsugae) by Lorraine Graney, Bartlett Tree Experts, Bugwood.org
Researchers found flies native to the western U.S. which are attacking and eating the adelgid.  After ten years of research, the silver flies (Leucopis piniperda and L. argenticollis) were gathered from Washington and released on May 12 in Tennessee and on June 5 in New York under a permit from the USDA Animal Plant Health Inspection Service.  Most of the flies are confined to infested branches covered by bags, but there are open releases.  While the flies are unlikely to eradicate the adelgids, they may reduce the overall population.

Source Article: Flies released to attack hemlock-killing pest
Hemlock woolly adelgid images: Adelges tsugae Images
Hemlock woolly adelgid Wiki article: Adelges tsugae Wiki
Hemlock woolly adelgid map: Adelges tsugae map
Don't Move Firewood: Adelges tsugae

Friday, June 26, 2015

Island Invasive Species Eradication Database

Did you know that there is an interactive database of invasive species eradications on islands?  The Database of Island Invasive Species Eradications has compiled information worldwide for islands that have eradication programs for invasive species.  You can click on any of the marked islands and a details box will popup and show what the target species are, what stage the program is in (In progress, Successful, or Failed), and the last date of progress update.  Many of the islands off of the U. S. coast have eradicated ungulates (sheep, goats, deer, etc.), rabbits, dogs, cats, and rodents.  You can also search by a few different filters if you are interested in a certain species, place, or eradication status or method.

goat (Capra hircus) by Scott Bauer, USDA Agricultural Research Service, Bugwood.org

Check out the Database of Island Invasive Species Eradications

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Consumers willing to pay for sustainably produced palm oil

Palm oil is in a wide variety of products, from food to cosmetics and has also been used as biofuel in the recent years.  Industry's need for more palm plantations contends with habitat for many endangered species, including tigers, elephants, and rhinos.  Researchers evaluated the finances involved in the cost of a major palm plantation devoting land to conservation efforts and the amount of mark-up that consumers are willing to pay for "conservation-grade" palm oil.  Their experiments showed that consumers are willing to pay 15 to 56 percent more, which could induce companies to practice sustainability where government enforcement has failed.

African oil palm (Elaeis guineensis) by William M. Brown Jr., Bugwood.org
Source Article: Palm oil price change could save tigers, other species

Giant Predatory Worm found in Florida

The New Guinea flatworm, Platydemus manokwari, has been discovered in Florida. It carries parasites which can be passed to humans. See below a variety of articles on this new invasive threat.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Cross-agency alliance to tackle invasive buffelgrass

Buffelgrass (Pennisetum ciliare) is an invasive species found primarily in the southwest U. S., though it has been documented in several counties across the whole southeast.  The biggest concern with buffelgrass is that it can transform a shrub and scrub habitat into a grassland, crowding out all the native vegetation, and can rapidly deplete the soil of nutrients.  It is prized as a pasture grass in many areas due to the same reasons that make it a successful invasive; rapid establishment, high yield, high nutrient load, and adaptability to many weather conditions and environments.

Buffelgrass (Pennisetum ciliare) by Joseph M. DiTomaso, University of California - Davis, Bugwood.org

The southwest has been trying to get their buffelgrass populations under control for many years and Saguaro National Park, the Coronado National Forest, and the Southern Arizona Buffelgrass Coordination Center were just awarded Resilient Landscape Program (RLP) funding from the Department of the Interior.  This funding will go towards buffelgrass control and habitat restoration in the Sonoran Desert region.  The major concern is that buffelgrass resprouts quickly from wildfire events, much more so than the native species.  By reducing the buffelgrass from the ecosystem, it will not only protect the natives, but also property and homes.

Source Article: Resilient Landscapes Program Funding to Help Combat Southern Arizona Buffelgrass Invasion
Buffelgrass Wiki: Pennisetum ciliare
Buffelgrass on EDDMapS: Pennisetum ciliare
Buffelgrass Images: Pennisetum ciliare

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Dispersal of invasive species homogenizes biodiversity

As humans have rapidly mediated the spread of species all over the world, in a way that was not previously possible, this is reducing the biodiversity of invaded ecosystems.  Researchers evaluated the spread of 175 nonnative snails across 56 countries and subregions and evaluated the biodiversity of the invaded communities.  While previous studies compared the species richness of pre-invaded communities to the invaded communities, and found no significant trends, this study compared the invaded site's biodiversity to each other.  The results showed that the invaded communities with similar environments, regardless of geographic distance, contained many of the same species.  It is expected that nearby communities contain similar species, but it was surprising to find that communities separated by an ocean were also sharing similar species.  This study helps to show how invasive species are changing the biodiversity in specific ways across similar environments.

giant East African snail (Achatina fulica) by Yuri Yashin, achatina.ru, Bugwood.org

Source Article: Dispersal of alien species redefines biogeography

Monday, June 22, 2015

Suppressing natural wildfires changes Wisconsin ecosystems

Wildfires were somewhat common the portions of Wisconsin until around the 1950s.  According to surveys conducted in 1958, pine barrens canopy cover was at 55% and a 2012 survey of the same barrens recorded shading at a 90% average.  While the species diversity didn't decrease, the ratios of the dominant species did change.  Previously, pine barrens were comprised of fire-tolerant trees and sun-loving forbs.  Those types of plants have become more rare as woody shrubs, shade-tolerant plants (mostly ferns), and fire-susceptible trees have had the opportunity to grow in those areas.  Due to the reduction of wildfires, Wisconsin as a whole is becoming a more homogeneous and uniform ecosystem.

prescribed fire is a tool used to mimic wildfires in ecosystems where regular fires no longer occur.  Image by USDA Forest Service Southern Research Station Archive, USDA Forest Service, SRS, Bugwood.org

Source Article: Starved for fire, Wisconsin's pine barrens disappear

Friday, June 19, 2015

Contaminated urban soils can be used in edible gardening, with certain safety measures

Researchers from Kansas State University conducted a six-year long study to evaluate the safety in using contaminated soils to grow food in urban environments.  The land typically used for vegetable gardens are abandoned lots or areas near industrial centers which have a higher risk of contaminants.  Soils typically had elevated levels of lead, arsenic, zinc, and/or polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and plants evaluated were categorized by edible part: root crops, leaf crops, and fruit crops.

garden by Arthur E. Miller, USDA APHIS PPQ, Bugwood.org

Root crops, carrots, beet roots, and radishes, had elevated levels of contaminants, but they were still very low and are considered to be very low risk.  Leaf and fruit crops had an even lower risk than root crops, very little contaminants were found within the vegetable but there were occasions where contaminated dust was on the surface of the of the food.  This dust could be washed away with simply cleaning the food prior to consumption.  The overall observation has been that the bioavailability of the contaminants is very low.  Some best management practices for growing food on suspected contaminated soils include:

  • Test soil for pH and nutrients and amend as needed
  • Add organic matter and clean soil to dilute any possible contaminants
  • Remember that, while very little of the contaminants are in the vegetables, they are still in the soil and proper clothing should be worn to minimize contact with the soil.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

No treatments yet for aggressive banana disease

Bananas are the most commonly consumed fresh fruit in the U. S., with the average person eating 10.4 pounds of bananas each year as of 2010 (USDA-Economic Research Service 2010).  A major concern for the banana growers in the Americas is the new Fusarium wilt (Tropical Race 4) that is hitting banana growers hard in Africa, the Middle East and southeast Asia.  The most popular banana cultivar, Cavendish, replaced other banana varieties in the 1950 after they were almost entirely taken out by Fusarium wilt Tropical Race 1.  Cavendish was resistant to that disease and has been widely grown since, but it is susceptible to the new Tropical Race 4.  It hasn't been found in the Americas yet, but without an effective treatment and no known resistant varieties to replace the Cavendish, that is the largest concern for this $44 billion industry.

bananas (Musa spp.) by Gerald Holmes, California Polytechnic State University at San Luis Obispo, Bugwood.org
Source Article: Americas may be hit by catastrophic banana disease

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Would dinosaurs be invasive?

In the first Jurassic Park movie, long-extinct dinosaurs and plants were brought back to life and were "contained" in a zoo/park for amusement of tourists.  As with most species intentionally introduced by scientists, there were several worst-case scenario contingency plans... which all failed.  In fact, in all of the movies, someone has a plan to move the dinosaurs off of the island for one reason or another and no one seems to take into account that they may escape and become invasive species.

Species which are introduced into a new ecosystem have the potential to become invasive. Some of the qualities that define an invasive species are:
  • non-native to the ecosystem in question
  • no enemies or pests to keep the population in check
  • successfully reproducing and surviving in new habitat
  • competes with native species for food, space, water, etc.
  • causes ecological, economical, or human health harm

Accidental introduction of larger animals into a new area is a little more rare and a population may have difficulty establishing.  They have to have a large enough starting population, are repeatedly introduced, or are naturally able to withstand any negative effects of inbreeding depression.  In the case of the dinosaurs seen in the movies, the likelihood of someone accidentally transporting a number of eggs, juveniles, or adults would be limited to the shipping containers and boats.  This kind of transmission of invasive animals is already an issue with the brown tree snake on Guam and some of the surrounding islands.  Every shipment is inspected to ensure that snake-free islands aren't accidentally infested when receiving goods from an infested island.  

brown tree snake (Boiga irregularis) by Gordon Rodda, U.S. Geological Survey, Bugwood.org

In the original Jurassic Park, only one plant is mentioned to being brought back from extinction, but I doubt that it is the only one.  Scientists can tell from fossilized teeth what a particular dinosaur generally ate; carnivores have sharp serrated teeth for piercing and tearing flesh, herbivores have blunt teeth for stripping and grinding plants material, and omnivores have a mixture of teeth for tearing/piercing and grinding.  They can also evaluate fossilized digestive organs and coprolites for bones, plant pollen, and any other material that they may have eaten which survived digestion or were preserved before digestion could happen.  While some of the plant eating dinosaurs could potentially survive on living relatives of the plants that were around when they were still walking the Earth, they must have had to bring back some plants which are necessary to survival or to thrive. A dinosaur that is sickly because it is missing vital nutrients would likely draw activists rather than a paying crowd.  

Unlike the Jurassic Park franchise, moving invasive plants around is not limited to greedy employees, naive businessmen, misguided colleagues, or exploitative military officers.  Not only would there be the chance of employees intentionally or accidentally spreading plant propagules (seeds, roots, rhizomes, spores [ferns], etc.) off of the island, but anyone with a home garden may be tempted to snap off a plant tip to try to root it at home.  Problems already exist with potentially invasive plants moving all over the world, intentionally and accidentally.  There is much that we don't know about long-extinct plants, not only if they are a human/animal health concern, but also how they interact with the ecosystem that they were a part of and the ecosystems that they may be able to invade.  The U.S. and Europe already have to contend with giant hogweed, a nasty invasive plant from central Asia.

giant hogweed (Heracleum mantegazzianum) by Terry English, USDA APHIS PPQ, Bugwood.org

giant hogweed (Heracleum mantegazzianum) by Thomas B. Denholm, New Jersey Department of Agriculture, Bugwood.org

giant hogweed (Heracleum mantegazzianum) by Thomas B. Denholm, New Jersey Department of Agriculture, Bugwood.org
Notice anything interesting about all of those images?  Everyone is wearing gloves to handle the plants.  The sap in the plant is phototoxic, meaning that if you come in contact with the sap and that area is exposed to light, you can suffer burns and blisters.  Other plants have allelopathic properties which inhibits other plant species from growing around them.  So, future extinct-plant-resurrecting scientists, for the sake of our ecosystems, keep it in the lab/greenhouse and away from the curious eyes of gardeners for now.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Invasive carp moving upstream in MN

Between May 26 and 31, five bighead carp (Hypophthalmichthys nobilis) were caught by anglers in the St. Croix river, near Stillwater, MN.  They notified MN-DNR officials of the presence of the invasive fish, and they were able to catch more of the fish.  This pushes the known range northward seven miles, though they currently don't believe that the carp are breeding in the river.  Bighead carp are not native to the river and directly compete with native fish for plankton and can grow up to sixty pounds.

bighead carp (Hypophthalmichthys nobilis) by US Fish & Wildlife Service, Michigan Sea Grant, Bugwood.org

Source Article: Invasive carp caught farther upstream on St. Croix River
MN-DNR News Release: 5 bighead carp captured in St. Croix River near Stillwater

Monday, June 15, 2015

Native Americans altered forests' makeup for protection and food

Researchers modeling for forest tree species distribution in western New York found that the expected distribution didn't match historical records.  The areas of the most discrepancies were located around historical Native American villages.  Trees around those sites were apparently chosen to provide food and protection for the inhabitants, so trees more susceptible to fire were documented infrequently and nut bearing trees were found in abundance.  It's estimated that as much as 20% of the land in Chautauqua county, New York is still impacted to this day.

American chestnut (Castanea dentata) by USDA Forest Service Southern Research Station Archive, USDA Forest Service, SRS, Bugwood.org

Friday, June 12, 2015

Tank mix different herbicides to control herbicide-resistant weeds

Herbicide-resistant weeds are a big concern for growers.  Not only does it necessitate a re-evaluation of the herbicides that are effective, but it is also a potentially drastic change in other management strategies.  With the adoption of herbicide resistant crops, growers were able to also adopt conservation tillage practices, such as strip-till and no-till, which are better for soil quality and health.  Conservation tillage practices tend to shift the dominant weed species to small seeded species that are shallowly buried, including palmer amaranth.  With the increasing spread of herbicide resistant species, especially glyphosate-resistant palmer amaranth, growers are now faced with the challenge of managing their crop sustainably without undoing the positive effects of the conservation tillage.

One of the best options has been to tank-mix herbicides with different mechanisms of action (MOAs) to control susceptible and resistant populations of weeds.  Tan mixes can allow for control of multiple weed types, such as grasses, sedges, broad-leaved weeds, etc., depending on the chemicals chosen.  Using multiple MOAs in an application reduces the frequency of resistance, as compared to rotating herbicide MOAs seasonally.  Weeds with multiple MOA resistance do exist, so the mixes sprayed need to include herbicides with multiple and different MOAs that are effective on any herbicide-resistant weeds present.

Stanley Culpepper conducting an herbicide application in a trial to determine the levels of herbicide resistance in Palmer amaranth. Image by Joseph LaForest, University of Georgia, Bugwood.org

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Pennsylvania says Clean Your Gear! Stop Aquatic Hitchhikers!

Pennsylvania is enlisting the help of the public to fight the spread of Aquatic Invasive Species. Two signs they are posting to help increase public awareness of the problems caused by aquatic invasives.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Rebounding endangered species now a nuisance?

Endangered species programs are put in place to protect species whose populations have dwindled to low levels.  The programs may limit human activity in certain areas or at certain times of the day/year and this can be a cause for tension among businesses seeking to use areas.  But what happens when those programs are successful and now the local communities and businesses can be in conflict with the larger population of the very species that they were trying to save?

Sea otter populations in the north Pacific went from 1,000 individuals in the 1800s to now over 107,000 individuals. Image of Sea otter (Enhydra lutris) by Caleb Slemmons, National Ecological Observatory Network, Bugwood.org

For marine mammals that have rebounded due to conservation efforts, they may now be in direct competition with fishing businesses.  Due to nesting and young rearing, entire sections of beach may be closed to the public, impacting businesses that thrive on the traffic and sales.  Now that were are faced with the possibility of removing many long-listed species from the protection of their programs, how are we going to ensure that they don't end up back on the list?  The best thing is to establish a plan for their return to sustainable populations levels before they even come off the list.  This will help local communities and businesses to know how to plan around the species eventual return to long-deserted areas.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Another cause of bee colony decline?

A parasite common to Asiatic bees, microsporidian fungus called Nosema ceranae, has been found in European honeybee larvae for the first time.  It has been documented in the adult European bees for  decades, but this is the first time it has been documented in the larvae. The fungus can be found within healthy colonies, but can contribute to colony collapse disorder if the colony becomes stressed by other factors, such as bad weather, poor nutrition, or poor egg-laying by the queen.  There are fungicides which can be used to treat infected honeybees, but it may come back by interaction with other infected colonies or by adults with low resistance to the fungus.

Honey bee (Apis mellifera) by Robert W. Matthews, University of Georgia, Bugwood.org

Source Article: Tiny parasite may contribute to declines in honey bee colonies by infecting larvae
Honey bee images: Apis mellifera

Friday, June 5, 2015

EDDMapS: Using the Bugwood Smartphone Apps - NEW

Just posted on EDDMapS Tools & Training page is a pdf for "EDDMapS: Using the Bugwood Smartphone Apps". This pdf provides an easy to use guide for collecting and reporting data on invasive species with the Bugwood Smartphone Apps.

  • EDDMapS: Using the Bugwood Smartphone Apps - NEW
  • Walnut twig beetle, native and invasive in the U. S.

    Walnut twig beetle (Pityophthorus juglandis) is believed to be native to the southwest but has spread to the eastern U. S., bringing thousand canker disease (fungus: Geosimithia morbia) with it.  Genetic testing reveals that there are two different geographic lineages but areas where the beetle is invasive, they have hybridized.  The two lineages may be considered as two separate species.

    Walnut twig beetle (Pityophthorus juglandis) by Steven Valley, Oregon Department of Agriculture, Bugwood.org
    Thousand canker disease occurs where the beetle has infested walnut trees.  The fungus grows under the bark of the tree wherever the beetles enter, forming many small cankers which cut off the flow of nutrients throughout the tree.  Diseased tree may die in as little as three years.  The beetles and disease were first found in the eastern U. S. in 2010 and have attacked many walnut trees, causing damage to crops and urban forests.

    Thousand canker disease (Geosimithia morbia) by Ned Tisserat, Colorado State University, Bugwood.org

    Source article: Walnut twig beetle's origin, spread revealed in genetic studies
    Walnut twig beetle images: Pityophthorus juglandis
    Thousand canker disease images: Geosmithia morbida
    Walnut twig beetle BugwoodWiki article: Pityophthorus juglandis

    Thursday, June 4, 2015

    SE-EPPC and NC-IPC Meeting 2015 Recap!

    Bugwood's Invasive Species Coordinator and EDDMapS Data Coordinator were in Chapel Hill, NC for the joint Southeast Exotic Pest Plant Council and North Carolina Invasive Plant Council meeting.  It was held at the North Carolina Botanical Garden and was attended by representatives of the southeastern U. S. from all fields concerned with invasive species: industry/commercial agents, University researchers and staff, state and federal agency employees, etc.

    Image by Rebekah D. Wallace

    The presentations covered a range of topics: control efforts and successes, citizen science programs, updates of each of the states' programs, and research experiments on invasive species.  In fact, two presenters spoke about the benefits of using goats as a "first-pass" on kudzu control and how much success they have had with this control option.  There were also plenty of opportunities to network and talk to presenters and attendees.  The meeting also included students in the oral presentation and poster sessions, which encouraged students to become more involved in the community.

    I would suggest that anyone interested in invasive species should check out their local EPPC, IPC, or equivalent organization to learn how they can participate.

    Some regional groups which may have state or local EPPCs, IPCs, Cooperative Weed Management Areas (CWMAs) or Cooperative Invasive Species Management Areas (CISMAs) as partners include:
    Mid-Atlantic Invasive Plant Council
    Great Lakes Early Detection Network
    Midwest Invasive Species Information Network
    Missouri River Watershed Coalition

    Wednesday, June 3, 2015

    Successful treatment for White-nose syndrome!

    White-nose syndrome is a fungal (Pseudogymnoascus destructans) infection of the bats' nose, mouth, and wings.  It was discovered in 2007 and primarily affects bats which hibernate, specifically white-nose syndrome has been confirmed in seven species and the fungus, but not the symptoms, has been confirmed in five additional species.  It affects bats which hibernate due to the lowered immune system during hibernation, creating an opportunity and environment for the fungus to live.  Death from the fungus is ultimately caused by starvation due to frequent wakefulness periods during hibernation, this dehydrates and depletes fat stores of the infected bats.  An estimated 5-6 million bats have died due to white-nose syndrome.

    white-nose syndrome fungus (Geomyces destructans) on little brown myotis (Myotis lucifugus) by Al Hicks, NYSDEC, Bugwood.org

    Researchers at Georgia State University discovered that a common bacterium, Rhodococcus rhodochrous, can inhibit P. destructans growth.  In 2014, scientists from GSU, U. S. Forest Service, The Nature Conservancy, and other state and federal agencies conducted field trials on the possibility of using R. rhodochrous to treat affected bats.  Infected bats were treated with compounds produced by the bacteria and many of the bats survived and were deemed healthy enough to be released in May 2015.  The results are encouraging, but more research needs to be done.

    If you are near the Hopewell Culture National Historical Park in Chillicothe, Ohio on June 5, 2015, they are conducting a night-time bat program with the potential to see, hear, and even capture a bat.  To learn more about the program: Night-Time Bat Adventure

    U. S. Forest Press Release: U.S. Forest Service Research Team Releases Bats Treated for WNS
    The Nature Conservancy News Release: Bats Successfully Treated for White-Nose Syndrome Released Back into the Wild
    For more information on White-nose Syndrome: White-Nose Syndrome Partnership
    Images: white-nose syndrome fungus
    BugwoodWiki Article: Geomyces destructans

    Tuesday, June 2, 2015

    Chicken from Hell, Cartwheeling spiders, and other new species

    Each year, the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry's International Institute for Species puts together the list of the Top 10 newly named species from the thousands discovered each year.  Some of the species include:

    Chicken, but not from Hell (by N.A. Irlbeck, Bugwood.org)

    • Extinct feathered dinosaur called Anzu wyliei or "Chicken from Hell."  Oddly, it is called this because it was found in the Hell Creek Formation.
    • Moroccan flic-flac spider (Cebrennus rechenbergi) which, rather than running, will cartwheel away from threats at up to 2 m/s
    • Bone-house Wasp (Deuteragenia ossarium) constructs a nest with many cells in which one egg is laid in each cell.  The wasp will then hunt for a spider to put in the cell with the egg, to provide nutrition for the larva to eat upon hatching, and it seals the cell shut.  One cell will contain only a large amount of dead ants to serve as a chemical barrier and scent mask to protect the larvae.

    To find out the rest of the species listed for 2015: ESF Top 10 New Species for 2015
    To see past year's lists: Past Years Top 10 New Species