February 2017
This is National Invasive Species Awareness Week!

February 27 – March 3 is National Invasive Species Awareness Week, organized by the Reduce Risks from Invasive Species Coalition. Various activities are planned across the United States. You could be involved! If you are an Invaders of Texas citizen scientist, consider doing some mapping this week, perform some removal or restoration, or contact your Satellite Group to see what can be done locally. Go to the National Invasive Species Awareness Week website and scroll down to the schedule of Washington, DC events to find links to webinars on Emerald Ash Borer biological control agents, the PlayCleanGo campaign, research on firewood use behavior change, and the European grapevine moth eradication program.





The Texas Gulf Region Cooperative Weed Management Area Had a Busy Week!

In mid-February the Texas Gulf Region Cooperative Weed Management Area (TGR-CWMA) held its biennial open meeting in Port Aransas. Among the topics discussed were funding, treatments for the removal of Brazilian peppertrees in Charlie's Pasture, and continued outreach efforts. Other activities associated with the meeting, co-hosted by the Mission Aransas National Estuarine Research Reserve and the UT-Marine Science Institute, included a workshop on how to safely remove trees in which such topics as safe tool use and the dangers of working near power lines were covered, a workshop on how to correctly plant trees, a workday of removing Brazilian peppertrees from the north end of Joan and Scott Holt Paradise Pond and planting 20 willow trees on its west side, and providing outreach during the Whooping Crane Festival. The TGR-CWMA also said farewell to Mike Murphrey, a state forester with the Texas A&M Forest Service who has played an integral role in the establishment and continued success of the CWMA. He will be sorely missed. Happy retirement!

View a time-lapse video of the removal of a Brazilian peppertree duing the demonstration.

The second biennial meeting for 2017 will likely be in held in late September or early October. Expect there to be a workshop, a workday, and outreach events, as well.

removing Brazilian peppertree in Port Aransas Feb 2017 - 1

Removing Brazilian peppertrees at Paradise Pond

Credits: Hans Landel, Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center


Water-Resistant Ant Bait Developed with Potential to Improve Red Fire Ant Control

Current ant baits break down when wet, limiting their effectiveness in wet conditions. Pest ants like the red imported fire ant (Solenopsis invicta) could be controlled more effectively with insecticide baits that can withstand moisture. A new ant bait formulation that is water-resistant offers promise. A team led by Robert K. Vander Meer, Ph.D., at the USDA-ARS Center for Medical, Agricultural, and Veterinary Entomology in the Imported Fire Ant and Household Insects Research Unit, conducted an experiment that deployed existing ant baits and water-resistant baits in closely matched wet conditions. Both baits contained the same active ingredient that inhibits the ability of an ant colony's queen to produce eggs. At the end of the 13-week test period, half of the red imported fire ant colonies exposed to standard bait were no longer producing worker ants, compared to all of the colonies exposed to the water-resistant bait.

"Our objective is to ultimately provide better control tools to the public for the control of pest ants and, in particular, the fire ant. Ideally, we would like to see this appear as a product at some time in the future here in the U.S., because I think it could be very useful in terms of providing a very good control method that is not affected by the heavy moisture that we deal with in the southeast," says Vander Meer.

Learn more sciencedaily.com.


Credit: USDA APHIS PPQ Archive

Lionfish Symposium Strategized On Lionfish Management in Texas Waters

The 2nd Annual Lionfish Symposium convened in Galveston on February 15 and 16 to continue the work begun last year to determine how to manage the invasive lionfish (Pterois volitans and P. miles). These fish, which are native to the Indo-Pacific, have become a problem in recent years as they degrade coastal and marine ecosystems in the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico by reducing the number of fish, shrimp and crab; degrading reefs; and causing economic harm. The participants, who represented State, Federal, Industry, Recreation, Academic, and Non-governmental organizations, discussed several topics including control and management, policy, funding, outreach, research, and market and other uses. The Symposium also hosted a public forum on Feb. 15 at the Moody Gardens Discovery Pyramid, during which about 20 members of the public had a chance to ask the experts about the spiky, venomous fish invading Texas coastal waters.

The Lone Star Lionfish Symposium was co-sponsored by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, the Houston Advanced Research Center, and the NOAA Flower Gardens Bank Marine Sanctuary.

For more information on the lionfish, go to Texasinvasives.org.


Lone Star Lionfish Symposium

Photo credit: Hans Landel, Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

HARC logo

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Registration Open – North American Invasive Species Forum

Registration is open for the North American Invasive Species Forum, to be held May 9-11, 2017, in Savannah, Georgia. Registration is $200 and includes 3 lunches and 2 dinners. Early Registration and Hotel Block is available until March 31, 2017. Optional Field Trips are available on Thursday Afternoon, May 11 – Saturday, May 13. Space is limited for some trips. The North American Invasive Species Forum is a biennial conference encompassing the interests of professionals and organizations involved in invasive species management, research, and regulation in North America. In addition to the three-day event and the post-forum field trips along the Georgia coast, there will also be a pre-forum workshop on invasive species mapping and data. Click here for more information.



May 9-11, 2017
Savannah, GA


Laurel Wilt Webinar

There will be a webinar on laurel wilt (Raffaelea lauricola) and the insect that spreads it, the redbay ambrosia beetle (Xyleborus glabratus), on April 22, 2017, sponsored by Texasinvasives.org and USDA-APHIS. Presenters from Texas A&M Forest Service will discuss the disease and the insect. More information on how to register for the webinar will be available in the next iWire and on the Texasinvasives.org Facebook page.

red bay ambrosia beetle

Credit: Michael C. Thomas,Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Bugwood.org

Invasive Spotlight:
Malta Star-thistle
(Centaurea melitensis)

Malta star-thistle is an annual (rarely a biennial) that occurs in open, disturbed sites such as grasslands, rangeland, open woodlands, fields, pastures, roadsides, waste places and fields. It is a native of southern Europe and northern Africa. It crowds out native plants, and its spiny flower heads can make it painful to walk through. High infestations of star-thistle can cause water stress in native species even in years with normal rainfall.

Malta star-thistle grows as a rosette when young in winter and produces a spiny, yellow-flowered head that typically reaches 1 m tall. As a rosette, it can be distinguished from other similar species by its lobed simple leaves whose lobes are smoothly rounded and terminal lobe is usually simple, broad, and rounded or oval. Other rosettes with which the species might be confused usually have either more angular lobes, or the lobes are further toothed, serrated, or divided. The leaves start off quite small in mid-winter and subsequently grow to 3” to 5” (7.5 to 13 cm) as the rosettes enlarge. The rosette may also have a fuzzy whitish center. Rosette leaves typically wither by flowering time. The flower stems are stiff and openly branched from near or above the base (sometimes unbranched in very small plants). Stem leaves are alternate, and mostly linear or narrowly oblong to oblanceolate. Margins are smooth, toothed, or wavy, and leaf bases extend down the stems (decurrent) and give stems a winged appearance. The yellow "flower" is actually many flowers (the plant is a composite or asteraceous) and it looks as though it is trying to squeeze out of the flower base: it never widens like a dandelion flower.

Control is easiest when the plant is in its rosette stage and before flowers open. Small infestations can be controlled by hand. Larger infestations may require herbicide application. The same methods used to control yellow star-thistle (Centaurea solstitialis) can be used to control Malta star-thistle.

Follow this link for more information on Malta star-thistle.


Credit: Howard Homan, Invaders of Texas

Malta Starthistle rosette

Credit: Chuck Sexton, Balcones Canyonlands NWR


Credit: Terri Whaley, Invaders of Texas

More News

Computer Model Indicates Texas Gulf Coast Should Be Priority for Lionfish Management
A new study using computer modeling suggests that the west Florida shelf and nearshore waters of Texas, USA, and Guyana, South America, function both as lionfish sources and sinks and should be a high priority for targeted lionfish (Pterois volitans/miles complex) control. Furthermore, of five grouper and snapper species that were studied and that are commercially important and likely to be affected by lionfish, the red grouper (Epinephelus morio) is most at risk. Read more.

APHIS Adds Atchison County in Kansas to the Emerald Ash Borer Regulated Area
Effective February 6, 2017, the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is adding Atchison County in Kansas to the list of regulated areas for the emerald ash borer (Agrilus planipennis) (EAB). APHIS is taking this action in response to the detection of EAB in Atchison County.

2017 Imported Fire Ant and Invasive Ant Conference is May 16-18
The 2017 Imported Fire Ant and Invasive Ant Conference will be held May 16-18, 2017 in Mobile, AL. The meeting starts with an evening reception on Tuesday, May 16. There will be a 2-hour meeting of the Ant Pests eXtension CoP immediately following the conference on the afternoon of May 18. Please bookmark this site so it will be handy: Invasive ant conference.

Multi-queen Super Colony Behavior in Red Fire Ants Likely Evolved Once
Invasive red fire ants (Solenopsis invicta) exist as two variants, one that forms single-queen colonies and one that forms multi-queen colonies. The latter, social variant is determined by a segment of DNA containing more than 500 genes. Among other intriguing findings, a recent analysis of this "supergene" suggests this segment evolved once. The research may also lead to new measures for controlling red fire ants. Learn more at sciencedaily.com.

Alarming Link Between Vampire Bats and Feral Pigs
A new study shows that the number of vampire bats, which transmit rabies and hence are a concern for livestock breeders, may be increasing in Brazil and the Americas as the populations of invasive feral pigs and wild boars (Sus scrofa) on which they feed increase. Learn more at sciencedaily.com.

More Study of Potential Biocontrol Agents of Cogongrass Needed
Cogongrass (Imperata cylindrica) displaces pasture grass, golf course greens and native plants in valuable ecosystems. Currently, the grass is controlled using herbicides, a procedure that can cost millions of dollars annually in some states. Now researchers are focusing on insects that feed on cogongrass as potential biological control agents. Learn more at sciencedaily.com.

Experimental Evidence for How Evolution May Alter Impacts of Invasions
Using aquatic microcosms in jars, researchers studied how species of microorganisms evolved in response to the introduction of another species. They found that the "performance" of both resident and introduced species changed over time. Learn more at sciencedaily.com.

Irula Tribesmen and Detection Dogs Work Together to Remove Florida Pythons
Dogs trained to detect Burmese pythons (Python bivittatus) by Auburn University are being used to locate the snakes in a National Wildlife Refuge in Florida. Irula tribesmen — world-renowned snake catchers from India — then remove the snakes. In their first eight days on the job, they removed 13 pythons. Learn more from the Southeast FarmPress.

Number of Alien Species Still Increasing Worldwide
Although it was known that the number of alien species increased during the last decades, it remained unclear whether the accumulation of alien species has already reached a point of slow-down. A new study shows that for all groups of organisms on all continents, the number of alien species has increased continuously during the last 200 years. [Note that "alien" does not necessarily mean "invasive". - Ed.] Learn more at sciencedaily.com.

Lamprey's "Danger" Signal Chemical Is a Potential Control Tool
Researchers have demonstrated that the chemical that lampreys (Petromyzon marinus) release as a danger signal to other lampreys can be used to keep migrating lampreys away. In conjunctin with a mating pheromone, the signal compound could be used to "push" and "pull" lampreys into different areas. The research offers pathways for research on other fish pest species. Learn more at sciencedaily.com.


If you would like to highlight a successful invasive species project or nominate a special person to be highlighted in an upcoming iWire, please send the details to iwire@texasinvasives.org.

Sentinel Pest Network and Invaders of Texas Species Workshops

Invaders of Texas workshops train volunteers to become citizen scientists to detect and report invasive species. Workshops, which are free, include information on the Sentinel Pest Network, which serves to increase the awareness and early detection of the Emerald Ash Borer, Cactus Moth, Asian Longhorned Beetle, and other pests of regulatory significance.

Workshops are tailored to meet the interests of your volunteer group, and supplementary session examples include an introduction to the TX Invaders mobile application and the Eradicator Calculator, a feature on Texasinvasives.org designed to help organize and track volunteer-based eradication efforts.

Upcoming Workshops:

Saturday, March 25, 2017
Location: Texas A&M Central Texas-Killeen
Contact: Tyler Phillips

Saturday, April 22, 2017
Location: Williamson County Extension Office (Georgetown, TX)
Contact: Judith Currier

Saturday, July 29, 2017
Location: Jesse H. Jones Park & Nature Center (Humble, TX)
Contact: Rose Belzung Holmes

For more information or to register to attend a free workshop, please visit the Workshop Page.