Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Lionfish Eating Each Other as Prey Become Scarce

While still a rare occurrence, as prey fish populations are declining, some lionfish are turning to cannibalism.  Two recent surveys of stomach contents reported that 4 of 130 lionfish in the Bahamas had consumed other lionfish and in 16 intact lionlish specimen in 157 stomachs in Mexico.  Unfortunately, this probably won't become a natural lionfish population limiting practice.

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

Source Article:  This Beautiful But Destructive Fish Is Resorting to Cannibalism
Lionfish Cannibalism in Mexico: Monitoring an Alien Invasion: DNA Barcoding and the Identification of Lionfish and Their Prey on Coral Reefs of the Mexican Caribbean
Lionfish Images: Pterois volitans
Lionfish BugwoodWiki: Pterois volitans

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Emerald Ash Borer Killed by Traditional Method of Storing Wood

Black ash (Fraxinus nigra) is an important tree to the American Indian and First Nations people in the Great Lakes and northeastern regions of the U.S. and the emerald ash borer (Agrilus planipennis) is a grave threat to centuries-old traditions, primarily basketweaving.  One of the major concerns with the insect is that it is readily spread through movement of felled trees.  However, the local people's traditional storage method of submerging black ash logs in water has proven to effectively control emerald ash borer.

Emerald ash borer (Agrilus planipennis) on ash (Fraxinus spp.) by Daniel Herms, The Ohio State University,

Researchers followed the submersion method outlined by the Match-e-be-nash-she-wish Band of Potawatomi Indians of Michigan.  Using infested logs, researchers varied the length of submersion time and the time of year to find if this is a treatment option.  Researchers found that submerging logs in a river for 18 weeks in the winter or 14 weeks in the spring kills emerald ash borers and the resulting logs are still usable for basketweaving.  Interestingly, the winter time required is longer due to the insect overwintering in a dormant state.

Source Article: Basketmakers' tradition of storing black ash logs in water effective in killing emerald ash borer
Emerald ash borer images: Agrilus planipennis
Emerald ash borer BugwoodWiki: Agrilus planipennis
Black ash images: Fraxinus nigra

Monday, July 27, 2015

The Many benefits of Cover Crops

The 2015 Cover Crop Survey was recently released, it reports on the growers using cover crops and the effects that cover crops have on the productivity of the land.  A quick rundown of the numbers:
  • 1,229 farmers answered the online survey
  • 47 states represented in the results
  • 84% of respondents have planted cover crops
  • 3.66 more bushels per acre of corn after planting cover crops
  • 2.19 more bushels per acre of soybean after planting cover crops
  • 92% of producers who do not plant cover crops would be motivated to plant if there were economic incentives
  • 300 acres is the average expected acreage of cover crop planting for 2015
  • 84% of cover crops planted were cereal grains and grasses
Cereal rye (Secale cereale) is the most common cereal grain or grass planted as a cover crop.  Image by Joseph M. DiTomaso, University of California - Davis,

Benefits of cover crops:
  • Increased yield
  • Increased organic matter
  • Improvement of soil health
  • Improved weed control
  • Reduced erosion
To learn more about the motivations of cover crop users and other information resulting from this survey: 2015 Cover Crop Survey
For a summarized report: 2015 Cover Crop Survey Analysis
Need help figuring out what cover crop to plant: USDA Cover Crop Chart

Monday, July 20, 2015

Bugwood goes to the Aquatic Plant Management Society Meeting

This is the first year that we have attended this meeting and it is definitely one we would like to go back to!  Over 100 people attended the meeting and represented academia, non-profit organizations, state agencies, federal agencies, industry, and other institutions.  The presentations were very interesting and we learned at lot.  Topics covered included: control/management methods, biology/physiology, monitoring technology, partnerships and programs, and interesting research.

Bugwood presented on the last day, covering the EDDMapS website, South Eastern Early Detection smartphone application, and covered the new push alert system.  The push alert system will send out alerts to user's smartphones about news relevant to the region or species included in the application.  Presentations given by other attendees were equally as interesting.

Did you know that when a crested floating heart (Nymphoides cristata) leaf is damaged or cut in half, it will grow roots and may produce daughter plants from the damaged leaf ?  This is information that will be important for planning management strategies in infested waterbodies.

crested floating heart (Nymphoides cristata) by Larry McCord, Santee Cooper,

There were several presentations on grass carp (Ctenopharyngodon idella) movement in rivers and reservoirs.  Researchers will implant tracking devices in the grass carp and monitor their movement at key points to see where they will travel if they are introduced for invasive aquatic plants control.  Sterile grass carp, also called triploid grass carp, are often used in rivers to prevent them from reproducing.

grass carp (Ctenopharyngodon idella) by Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Archive,

In addition to the presentations, there was a large station with many species of aquatic weeds!  This is great for showing the variety of species that are an issue nationwide.

Aquatic weeds identification station by Rebekah D. Wallace

Shortly before the awards dinner, there was a duck race!

Aquatic Plant Management Society Meeting Duck Race by Rebekah D. Wallace
This was an interesting and educational meeting, so if you're in the aquatic plants field you should check it out!

Friday, July 17, 2015

Populations Declining Despite Some Conservation Successes

Conservation programs have definitely increased populations of threatened and endangered species: Lesser-Prairie Chicken, Oregon Chub, and Sierra Nevada Yellow-Legged Frog are just a few of the species which have begun to rebound.  For many species, conflicts with humans, either directly or though habitat disturbance, is a primary cause of population decline.  In fact, habitat destruction is the main threat to 85% of the species assessed on the ICUN Red List.  As such, habitat restoration is a major part of most conservation plans and this has lead to population increases and delisting of some species.

Lion (Panthera leo) by Joy Viola, Northeastern University,
However, not all endangered species are part of conservation programs and many are protected are continuing to decline.  Big cats are very charismatic and are "poster animals" for conservation programs and endangered species.  Despite conservation efforts, many species are still declining due to prey animal population decline, human-animal conflict, and poaching.  Many species of plants are also impacted by human activities, not only habitat destruction, but also poaching.  Almost all of the 84 species of Asian slipper orchid are threatened by over-collection and habitat loss.

While 14 new species have been assessed as Critically Endangered (Possibly Extinct), no new species have been listed as Extinct.

Source Article: Conservation successes overshadowed by more species declines – IUCN Red List update

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Lesser-Prairie Chicken Survey Shows 25% Population Increase in One Year!

The Lesser-Prairie Chicken Initiative (LPCI), like many successful programs, is a collaboration among government agencies and private landowners.  Not only does getting the public involved in the conservation efforts raise awareness and support, but 95% of the chicken's current range is on private land.  The lesser-prairie chicken is currently located in four ecoregions covering five states, Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas. From 2014 to 2015, the total population experienced a 25% increase; this is on top of last year's 20% increase.  As most of the population decline is due to habitat loss, USDA - Natural Resource Conservation Service, through the LCPI, has invested more than $20 million to help private landowners improve habitat and ranchland sustainability on nearly 950,000 acres since 2010.  By improving the habitat for the chicken, the ecosystem as a whole benefits from cleaner air, water, and soil.

Lesser-prairie chickens prefer grassland habitats. Image by Dave Powell, USDA Forest Service (retired),

Source Article: Survey: Lesser Prairie-Chicken Population Continues to Climb
Lesser-Prairie Chicken Initiative
Lesser-Prairie Chicken Survey - Aerial survey shows lesser prairie-chicken population increased 25 percent from 2014 to 2015

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Oregon Chub the First Fish to be Removed from the Endangered Species List

It took 20 years of work by a large group of federal and state agencies, private landowners, and other concerned programs, but the Oregon chub (Oregonichthys crameri) has been removed from the endangered species list.  The fish was listed in 1993 when the population was estimated to be 1,000 individuals in eight known locations.  Today, there are over 80 known location and the population had increased approximately 140,000.  The restoration efforts were funded 100% by USDA-ARS and the chub's habitat, slack water off-channel habitats such as beaver ponds, oxbows, side channels, backwater sloughs, low gradient tributaries, and flooded marshes, fell mostly under the Wetlands Reserve Program.  The population rebounded almost entirely due to habitat improvement and introduction to new locations within its historical range.  By developing cooperative partnerships with a number of different agencies, professionals, and private landowners projects like the Oregon chub recovery can succeed.

Beaver pond, typical habitat for Oregon chub. Image by Karan A. Rawlins, University of Georgia,

Source Article: USDA Employee Named “Recovery Champion” for Oregon Chub Conservation Efforts
Oregon Fish and Wildlife Office: Species Fact Sheet Oregon chub

Sportsmen's Fight Against Invasives Video

Produced by Wild Dakota Outdoor Television in partnership with the MRWC, these thirteen videos were designed to raise awareness among sportsmen of invasive species and their impacts on hunting, fishing, and other outdoor recreation.
largemouth bass, Micropterus salmoidesDave Fuller, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks,

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Seabird Populations Reduced 70% Since 1950

A comparison of seabird populations from the 1950s to 2010 showed a loss of 230 million birds during that time.  The decline can be attributed to a number of causes, including human over-fishing of prey fish, plastic and oil pollution, invasive species introduced to nesting sites, habitat destruction, and climate change affecting the environment.  Seabirds can be an important indicator of the health of marine and coastal ecosystems, so such a steep population decline indicates that there are major problems within these environments which need to be addressed.

Laysan albatross (Phoebastria immutabilis) by Forest and Kim Starr, Starr Environmental,

Source Article: Global trends show seabird populations dropped 70 percent since 1950s

Monday, July 13, 2015

Sierra Nevada Yellow-legged Frogs Reintroduced to Lakes in Yosemite

Historically, the Sierra Nevada yellow-legged frog (Rana sierrae) was abundant thoughout the Sierra Nevada.  Tourists would encounter hundreds of them near lake shores, but the population has declined precipitously in the last 30-40 years.  The populations are now scattered and extinct in some of the historical range.  The causes of the decline of frogs have been attributed to introduction of fish non-native, primarily trout, to the frog's lakes, the chytrid fungus, pollution, other diseases, and human activity which has impacted their environment (nutrient run-off from farms, mining run-off, etc.).  The non-native trout will not only eat the frogs at all life stages, but they also compete with frogs for food.  The chytrid fungus has impacted many species of frogs by growing in keratin on the skin and causes chytridiomycosis.  It is a disease which affects the frog's ability to breathe and regulate their water balance and often results in death.

Cutthroat trout (Oncorhynchus clarkii), a non-native trout introduced to Yosemite.  Image by Chris Schnepf, University of Idaho,
Yosemite National Park has been working internally on restoring lakes and reintroducing the frogs to portions of their historical range.  The frogs had not been entirely extirpated from Yosemite, so they have been able to use local populations to reintroduce to other areas of the park.  They have reintroduced frogs to two of the seven lakes that they have restored and have micro-chipped some of the frogs to keep track of their locations.

Source Article: Yosemite Restoring Endangered Yellow-legged frogs to Alpine Lakes
Yosemite Species Page: Sierra Nevada Yellow-Legged Frog

Friday, July 10, 2015

Upcoming themed week! Articles about species' population status

Recently, there have been a few posts on various scientific and government websites about the rebounding and decreasing populations of species in the U.S.  So this week, we will be featuring some of those articles!

If you are interested in learning more about endangered species and their current population status, check out the following websites.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources evaluates species for their extinction risk and makes this information available to the public as the ICUN Red List.  Species are listed as: Not Evaluated, Data Deficient, Least Concern, Near Threatened, Vulnerable, Endangered, Critically Endangered, Extinct in the Wild, or Extinct.  You can search for individual species and the results will tell you the all about the species including: Status, Taxonomy, Assessment Information, Geographic Range, Population, and more.

The Wold Wildlife Federation website runs a Species Directory which links to information for dozens of endangered species.  Choosing a specific animal will take you to a page describing the animal, threats to their survival, conservation efforts, and ways that the public can help that species.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service also has a page for Endangered Species.  Not only does it have information similar to the other resources above, but you can also search on their interactive map for endangered species in your area.

Stay tuned for our articles next week!

African penguin (Spheniscus demersus) adult with chick by Joy Viola, Northeastern University,

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Using Crops to Create Art

Rice (Oryza sativa) by Keith Weller, USDA Agricultural Research Service,

As home gardeners and farmers alike know, the same plant species can have many different varieties with wildly different looks.  Farmers in China have used different varieties of rice to create huge "paintings" in their fields.  Rice plants come in many different colors and using those to create 3D art has become a tradition for the farmers in Xibo, where the fields are a part of theme park.

To see some of the art: In pictures: 3D art in China's rice paddy fields

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Brown Marmorated Stink Bug Attracted to Mature Fruit

Brown marmorated stink bugs (Halyomorpha halys) are native to Asia and were first found in the U.S. in 1998.  In its native range, it has multiple generations per year, but it hasn't been found to have more than one generation per year in the U.S., though it could have more than one in the southern states.  It is considered to be a destructive agricultural and home pest.

Brown marmorated stink bug (Halyomorpha halys) by David R. Lance, USDA APHIS PPQ,

They feed on leaves and fruit of a wide variety of crop, horticultural, and ornamental plants, totaling over 120 species. This is of particular concern to plants grown as crops, as the feeding sites become necrotic and damage the fruit making it unmarketable.

Brown marmorated stink bug (Halyomorpha halys) feeding on peach (Prunus persica) by Gary Bernon, USDA APHIS,

Researchers have studied these insects to discover ways of controlling them and reducing the damage that they cause to food and structures.  A study conducted on the feeding habits of these bugs show that they are highly preferential to attacking plants which have mature fruit on them.  By removing the fruit from the trees, the bugs almost entirely disappeared from those trees.  This indicates that the bugs could be drastically reduced in areas that choose varieties in which the fruit matures outside of the feeding period of the bug or varieties which are non-fruit bearing, especially for ornamental plantings.  These bugs are known for their attraction to homes as overwintering locations, and the ornamental plantings around home provide food for them in the spring and fall.  By planting species that don't fruit at those times, or at all, the bugs also won't be attracted to the structure as an overwintering location.

Source Article: Stink bugs have strong taste for ripe fruit
BMSB Images: Halyomorpha halys
BMSB BugwoodWiki: Halyomorpha halys
BMSB Distribution Map: Halyomorpha halys

Monday, July 6, 2015

Dogs put to work doing what they do best

Overly energetic and enthusiastic shelters dogs may not be as attractive to families looking for a pet, but their personalities can be put to use by researchers trying to locate and track wildlife.  These dogs can be trained to find scat of all kinds of wildlife, from wolves to impalas to whales, which the researchers will use to analyze for diet, diseases, hormone levels, and other factors.  Not only does using dogs to locate animals allow researchers to collect better information and faster, it also reduces the bias that can come with other, traditional methods of tracking, such as game cameras, traps, and snares.

Dog (domestic) (Canis lupus familiaris) by Terry Spivey, USDA Forest Service, 

To read more about these hard-working dogs: Poop-sniffing dogs work for wildlife researchers

Friday, July 3, 2015

Feral Hogs Workshop in Texas

On August 5, 2015 Big Ticket National Preserve in Kountze, Texas will be hosting a free program with the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service of Hardin County called Wild Hogs Gone Hog Wild In The Big Thicket.  It will cover everything from how hogs came to the U.S., their behavioral and physiological qualifications for invasiveness, how to safely process them, hunting lands, and more.

Wild pig (Sus scrofa (feral type)) by Craig Hicks,

Source Announcement: Wild Hogs Gone Hog Wild In The Big Thicket
Program Schedule: Wild Hogs Gone Hog Wild In The Big Thicket Program

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Spotted Wing Drosophila Repellent Discovered

Spotted wing drosophila (Drosophila suzukii) is an invasive fly that feeds on soft-skinned fruits such as blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, strawberries, cherries, and others.  It was first detected in California in 2008 and has since spread to many states throughout the U.S. While flies are normally attracted to over-ripe fruit, SWD will lay its eggs in the flesh of ripening fruit and the larvae will hatch and consume the fruit through its development into an adult.

Spotted wing drosophila (Drosophila suzukii) adult on raspberry by Hannah Burrack, North Carolina State University,

Researchers at the University of California, Riverside found that a chemical produced naturally by fruits, Butyl anthranilate (BA), acts as a repellent for the fly.  BA is only produced in small amounts by fruit, by applying a 2.5% solution of BA to blueberries the researchers noted a substantial decrease in the number of larvae and pupae emerging from the fruit.  Nearly complete protection of the fruit was observed at a 10% solution of BA. This means that not only does BA reduce the amount of damage to fruit, but it also reduces the overall population by dissuading SWD from laying eggs.  BA is a commonly used flavor and fragrance ingredient and is generally recognized as safe by the American Food and Drug Administration (FDA). This chemical could serve as a safe and affordable option for fruit growers in place of other insecticides.

Source Article: Safe repellents that protect fruit from spotted wing Drosophila found
Spotted wing drosophila images: Drosophila suzukii
Spotted wing drosophila BugwoodWiki article: Drosophila suzukii
Spotted wing drosophila distribution map: Drosophila suzukii

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Colorado Releases Biocontrol Agent for Emerald Ash Borer

Oobius agrili is an egg parasitoid wasp native to Asia, the same region as the emerald ash borer (Agrilus planipennis).  The wasp seeks out and lays their eggs in the borers eggs and when the wasp larva hatch, they eat the unhatched borer eggs.  The wasps have been studied and have not been found to affect other, native borers in North America; they specifically seek out emerald ash borer eggs.  The wasps have been released in several northeastern states and have now been released in Colorado.

Oobius agrili parasitizing an emerald ash borer egg on an ash tree by Houping Liu, Michigan State University,
Source Article: Colorado Hopes This Asian Wasp Can Save its Trees
Emerald Ash Borer Bugwood Wiki: Agrilus planipennis
Oobius agrili Images: Oobius agrili
Emerald Ash Borer Distribution Maps: Agrilus planipennis

More Articles:
The invasive emerald ash borer has killed millions of trees, but researchers hope a wasp can save some of the survivors

Biological Control of Emerald Ash Borer


Development of methods for the field evaluation of Oobius agrili (Hymenoptera: Encyrtidae) in North America, a newly introduced egg parasitoid of the emerald ash borer (Coleoptera: Buprestidae)