More Vigilance Needed to Keep Invasive Species In Check

By Harry Case

As Featured On EzineArticles

An article on the Boston Globe’s website, By Carolyn Y. Johnson Globe Staff / July 7, 2010, “Finding of invasive beetle in Boston sets off alarms,” highlights the on-going threat that invasive and exotic organisms pose to the plant life in our country.  The beetle being discussed in the article is the Asian Longhorned Beetle (Anoplophora glabripennis).  This native species of China has no natural predators on the North American continent.  According to the story, in the majority of cases an outbreak can only be contained by cutting down and destroying the infested trees.  This may seem to be a rather draconian measure, but if its not taken the beetles will infest even more trees, such as elms, maples, poplars and willows.

In previous posts I have linked to articles discussing an exotic now established in the USA, The Brown Marmorated Stink Bug and one discussing a potential threat from Peru, the Avocado Seed Moth.  When you add to these the European and Asian Gypsy Moths and a host of other invasive species the scope of the threats can seem impossible to grasp and the task of controlling them can become daunting.  (I haven’t even mentioned invasive plants.)

The fact is that, once introduced, many non-native animals and plants spread slowly and undetected, at first.  Unfortunately, by the time they are discovered it is usually too late to eradicate the threat and the only choice left is to contain these threats.  This is an effort that uses up a tremendous amount of effort, money and other resources.  A much better choice would be prevention but the ways in which the invaders are introduced are so numerous and varied that, despite the detection and prevention measures currently in place, new species continue to arrive on our shores.  All future invasions would be stopped only if we halted all imports and all travel to our shores but, to state the obvious, this can never be done.  So what are some of the measures we  can take to help prevent further invasion?  I don’t really have space or time on this blog to go into all the ways in which these species are introduced or the ways to prevent their arrival, but on an individual level I can recommend that we all, at least, follow these few, simple rules:

1. be aware of what you’re transporting from one area to another within the country or what you may be bringing back with you from your foreign travels.

2. Make sure no foreign plants or animals are travelling with you.  It’s fairly easy to bring in organisms from another country on , or in your luggage.  The current re-infestation of bed bugs spreading across the country was most likely introduced to America by means of a few specimens harbored in luggage coming back from Asia.

3. Check your vehicle, trailer or that boat you may be towing.  Be sure your not transporting animals or plants.  The aggressive water plant, Asian Milfoil, which now chokes many of our lakes and streams, is easily transplanted from one body of fresh water to another by means of small pieces on and in boats.

4. Avoid transporting wood, fruit or plant materials from a quarantined area.  Such movements are responsible for the spread of pests such as the Asian Longhorned Beetle, Apple Coddling Moth and many others

5. Don’t release pets or exotics into our environment.  One example of the trouble this can cause is the population of Boa Constrictors and Pythons now living in the Florida Everglades.  These animals were introduced by thoughtless owners who, for one reason or another, released them into the wild.  Their short-sightedness has unleashed a potential environmental disaster and exposed people and pets living in close proximity to the park, to an unnecessary danger.

This is by no means a complete list, but it is a beginning.  There is more that can be done.  Log on to the internet and look at sites such as the Union of Concerned Scientists, the  US Forest Service Invasive Species Program and others to learn more.  Simply type the words “prevent invasive insects” or other, similar ones into your search engine and you’ll be able to tap into the wealth of information available to assist us all in the war on invasive species.