Monday, November 16, 2009

Week of November 16, 2009

Hand-writing on the wall for kudzu?

kudzubugATHENS, GA - Researchers at the University of Georgia and Dow AgroSciences have identified a kudzu-eating pest in northeast Georgia that has never been found in the Western Hemisphere.

Unfortunately, they say, the bug also eats legume crops, especially soybeans... a major cash crop in Georgia.

The bug has tentatively been identified as the bean plataspid (Megacopta cribraria), a native to India and China. It is pea-sized and brownish in color with a wide posterior, said Dan Suiter, an entomologist with the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.

“It kind of waddles when it walks on a surface, but it flies really well,” he said.

It’s also commonly called lablab bug and globular stink bug. Like its distant cousin the stink bug, when threatened, it releases a chemical that stinks.

Suiter and CAES diagnostician Lisa Ames first saw the pest when samples were sent to them in mid-October from UGA Cooperative Extension agents and pest control professionals in Barrow, Gwinnett and Jackson counties. Samples have since arrived from Clarke, Hall, Greene, Oconee and Walton counties.

Homeowners first reported the pest after finding large groups of the bugs lighting on their homes.

“At one home in Hoschton, Ga., we found the bugs all over the side of a lady’s house,” Suiter said. “There is a kudzu patch behind her home that provides food, and they were attracted to the light color of the siding. At this time of year, the insects are most active in the afternoon when it gets warm.”

In addition to homes, the bug is attracted to light-colored vehicles. [...]

Suiter says the pest’s populations are, for now, contained to northeast Georgia.

It’s an “invasive species feeding on an invasive species.”

Read the full story at link.

Photo courtesy Photo by Dan Suiter.


Predator Beetle To Battle Hemlock Pest

ScienceDaily (Nov. 13, 2009) — Hemlock woolly adelgids (HWA) -- aphidlike insects that have destroyed stands of hemlocks throughout the East Coast -- were first identified in hemlocks in the central Finger Lakes in summer 2008 and then in trees in Cornell Plantations' natural areas in early spring 2009.

Laricobius_nigrinus"To battle the hemlock-killing insects, a team of entomologists has released one of the adelgids' natural predators as a local case study. Specifically, researchers from Cornell, the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) and University of Massachusetts-Amherst released 900 Laricobius nigrinus beetles into a stand of adelgid-infested hemlocks on Cornell Plantations land near Lansing and at two other sites on Seneca Lake.

L. nigrinus beetles are native to the Pacific Northwest, where the black, 3-millimeter-long beetle keeps HWA in check by preying on them. As HWA spread through the Northeast, the insects flourished and decimated hemlocks, since no natural predators lived in the region. HWA avoid predators by growing in the winter. But L. nigrinus beetles have synchronous life cycles with the HWA, and they feed and grow during winter.

"It's important to reassure people, the release of this beetle is not haphazard," said Mark Whitmore, a Cornell forest entomologist in the Department of Natural Resources. "People have been studying L. nigrinus for a long time and have established that it will feed only on adelgids and successfully reproduce only on a diet of HWA."

The Lansing site was ideal for the case study, the researchers said, since the hemlocks there are only lightly infested with HWA, and there are many hemlocks to sustain a long-term study.

Volunteers trained to identify adelgids by Whitmore and Cornell Plantations staff discovered the Lansing site last spring. The site will be left untreated with pesticides for 10 years to study how well the L. nigrinus beetles become established, said Todd Bittner, director of natural areas.

If the experiment proves successful the researchers expect the population will take two to three years to build to levels where they can be readily detected.

Cornell natural areas staff will continue to survey Cornell Plantations, train volunteers and research strategies for stopping the spread of adelgids, Bittner said.

Read the story at link.

Photo of Laricobius nigrinus by Ashley Lamb, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University


Seaway official dispels 'myths'


WASHINGTON — Expansion of the St. Lawrence Seaway is never going to happen, but neither will the ban that some environmentalists seek for ocean-faring ships on the waterway, the system's U.S. administrator said.

St. Lawrence Seaway Development Corp. Administrator Collister Johnson sought an interview this week to dispel what he called "urban myths" perpetuated in the special election for the 23rd Congressional District, including Seaway expansion, winter navigation and the Seaway's approach to invasive species released by ocean vessels.

He dismissed as "absolutely absurd" the assertion that a proposal in Congress to create a power marketing agency on the Great Lakes — most likely the Seaway Corp. — could provide funds to expand locks and channels for bigger ships. And he described himself as "frosted" at Save the River, the Clayton environmental group, for suggesting as much in a recent newsletter to members.

The proposal, passed by the House this summer, is "not a devious federal plot to widen or deepen the Seaway. It's never going to happen," Mr. Johnson said.[...]

Mr. Johnson also sought to tamp down speculation that the Seaway Corp. supports winter shipping through the system, another practice that Save the River and other groups say would cause environmental damage and possibly interfere with hydroelectric production at the St. Lawrence-FDR Power Project because of disruption of the ice cover.

"Winter navigation will never happen," Mr. Johnson said.

Mr. Johnson also defended the Seaway's record on management of invasive species and said measures already in place — dumping of ballast water outside the system, saltwater flushing of ballast tanks to kill organisms, and inspections of ballast tanks at Montreal — are working well.

Since 2006, he said, no new species have been introduced to the system by ships, the longest such period since the 1960s.

He said the Seaway Corp. supports additional controls sought by the U.S. Coast Guard, ballast treatment systems on ships and saltwater flushing.

"That is effective and realistic and keeps stuff out," Mr. Johnson said.

On the other hand, the National Academies of Science has questioned whether exchanging ballast and flushing ballast tanks with salt water is enough to kill all potential aquatic invaders. While the method is highly effective at reducing their numbers, the National Academies reported last year, most ships were not designed for that purpose and tanks may have "dead zones" that are not fully washed out.

Read the full story at link.


Asian longhorn beetle

By Staff reports
GateHouse News Service

Weymouth, MA —

This article is written by a Weymouth resident, Neil Russo

Mom & Pop: sighting of Asian longhorn in South Weymouth false alarm.

Mom: Well, I must say that a cup of Earl Grey and an éclair hits the spot. Eb should have his own program on TV - his expertise in baking is phenomenal. I'm putting the last two back into the fridge. We can have them after supper. More Earl Grey… certainly, but no more éclairs - you've had two; you know… I worry about your health, and no amount of sweet-talking will make me give you another éclair.

Besides, I know you were as surprised as I was when we got our copy of the Smithsonian magazine and spotted the article about the Asian longhorned beetle. Thank heavens that the sighting of what was thought to be an Asian longhorn in South Weymouth turned out to be a false alarm. It was wonderful though that the concerned mother called about a possible sighting. That's how most invasives are first found, by alert citizens.

In the article by Peter Alsop, 'Invasion of the Longhorns', in the November issue, that's how the longhorn was first spotted in Worcester, MA. Alert citizen, Donna Massie, first noticed one on her car, and then two days later while hosting guests at a barbeque noticed a large number of beetles, including one covered with sawdust at the bottom of a maple tree, its head submerged in a dime-sized hole on the tree trunk.

The following day, Donna searched the Internet and began leaving messages with various agricultural sites. Eventually Patty Douglas, who works for the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) as plant health director for Conn., Ma., and Rhode Island, was contacted and Donna sent her a photo taken with her cell phone.

Within twenty-four hours, Patty Douglas and invasive species ecologist Jennifer Forman Orth were in Massie's backyard, staring at the trees. Their greatest fears were realized - the longhorns had invaded Worcester!

Pop: The Asian Longhorn had originally occupied a small niche in the forests of China, Korea, and Japan… and not considered a serious pest. Unfortunately, as the Chinese government began to plant enormous windbreaks of millions of trees in its northern provinces to cut down erosion, they planted mostly poplar trees which grow quickly and tolerate the arid, cold climate of northern China. [...]

Read the full story at link.


Arlington County (VA) teaming With AmeriCorps on invasive-plant removal

Arlington government officials hope a new partnership with AmeriCorps will put a dent in the county’s growing problem of non-native, invasive plants.

County Board members have approved receipt of a $62,823 state grant to help fund the work of six part-time workers - all recent high school graduates - who will be tasked with removing invasive plants from the Four Mile Run watershed and restoring a more natural habitat in the area.

The grant funding will be augmented by $27,590 in county funds to pay for a combined 10,000 hours of work from the six AmeriCorps program participants. Each of the students will receive $11,400 in the coming year for 1,700 hours of work.

Currently, there are 156 AmeriCorps members serving across Virginia.

Read the story at link.


Candlewood Lake (CT) drawdown to be shallow this year

By Robert Miller, Staff Writer

The ribbon of mud flats around Candlewood Lake, CT will be only half as wide this winter as last winter, as the lake will have a shallow, rather than a deep, drawdown this year.

"It will be in the 5-foot range,'' Larry Marsicano, executive director of the Candlewood Lake Authority, said Monday.

The owners of the lake, FirstLight Power Resources, drop the lake level every year, letting it stay down through the winter before bringing back to its summer operating level of 427 feet above sea level.

As in the past, when Northeast Utilities and its subsidiaries owned the lake, the strategy has been to alternate deep and shallow drawdowns.

Marsicano said despite the deep drawdown's success last year in killing the noxious Eurasian watermilfoil, an non-native invasive species that some years totally clogs the lake, FirstLight will stick to that pattern and not hold a deep drawdown two years in a row.

"It's consistent with what we've done in the past,'' he said.

The drawdowns expose the long strands of watermilfoil to freezing winter temperatures and cold winds. With luck, it kills them, leaving the lake's shallows watermilfoil free. That happened this year.

But as Marsicano has pointed out in the past, some drawdowns work better than others. If there's a lot of snow and ice early in winter, they may act as a protective blanket, allowing the plants to survive until spring. If it's a mild winter, the plants may not be killed off.

Marsicano has said, no one has ever studied whether repeated deep drawdowns may damage the lake's flora and fauna. Until that's known, he said, the safer path is to alternate deep and shallow drawdowns. [...]

Read the full story at link.


Air potato taking the wind out of local ecology in Florida

For Highlands Today

air_potatoSEBRING - The air potato, an invasive exotic plant, is attacking Highlands County's native plants and animals, and a few local super heroes are needed to fight it off.

Highlands County resident Clara Wyatt said that her mother has it growing on her backyard fence.

At first she liked the way it looked and didn't mind having it around, but now it has just become a nuisance.

"I mow her grass, and I will pull them up. You pull them up, and they come right back," she said.

Like Wyatt, county residents may have seen this vine that produces little warty potato-like tubers, not knowing what it is.

But those who know about it better be warned, said Corine Burgess, natural resource specialist at the Highlands Soil and Water Conservation District.

The air potato has become a serious threat to the county's native species, she said.

"It is an invasive exotic plant that is growing out of control pretty much everywhere you look," Burgess added.

"Unless someone puts a stop to it, it will take over every piece of vegetation in its path. It is like a blanket. The plants underneath it can only survive so long without sunlight."

Burgess wants to start a neighborhood group with residents in the county to fight invasive species, with emphasis on the air potato.

The group will map out areas in the neighborhood with air potato plants and report them.

Burgess will get permission for volunteers to pull up the vines and pick up the air potatoes.

"All it will really cost you is some of your time and labor," she added.

The air potato has no natural enemies, and nothing can eat it.

This poses a threat to animals because it is killing off the plants they eat, Burgess said.

"It is a food-chain thing," Burgess said. "If there is nothing at the bottom of the food chain, everything will eventually be affected."

According to the University of Florida Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants' Web site, the plants are very toxic and should not be consumed.

They can grow up to roughly 8 inches a day.

Many Florida counties are recruiting volunteers to help protect and conserve Florida's natural areas through the removal of air potato.

During the air potato roundup, citizens, organizations and local businesses get together to collect vines and bulbils.

"I think the air potato roundup is an excellent idea and provides a nice tool for a teaching people about invasive species in general," said Bill Overholt, chairman of the air potato task force at the Indian River Research and Education Center in Fort Pierce, a branch of the University of Florida.

The air potato task force put together and repaired a management plan, which can be accessed on the Florida Exotic Pest Plant Council Web site under Invasive Species Management Plans.

It has background and biological information on the plant, answers questions about where it grows, where it came from, what it looks like and how to manage it.

"We hope to have a biological control another year down the road," Overholt added.

The Highlands Soil and Water Conservation District will have the third of four free workshops on Florida's invasive and exotic plants and animals from 1-3 p.m. Friday, Nov. 20 at the Bert J. Harris Jr. Agriculture Center. The last workshop will be Dec. 18 at 1 p.m.

The workshops are leading up to air potato exchange day on Jan. 9.

Every person who brings in one bag or more of air potatoes will receive one free native plant.

Those who have questions about the workshops or are interested in starting or joining a neighborhood group to fight invasive exotic species should e-mail cburgess[at]


Invasive plant management tutorials

Here is a link to PA's invasive plant management tutorials for land managers. There's a lot of good information here.


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