February 2020
Cactus Moth Discovered in More Texas Counties

Unfortunately, in December the cactus moth (Cactoblastis cactorum) was found in more counties in Texas than just in Brazoria County where it was found for the first time in 2018. This insect has the potential to cause major damage to the prickly pear species (Opuntia spp.) in Texas, which would lead to both environmental and economic harm, so this is bad news. The discovery of the additional infestations in Calhoun, Colorado, and Matagorda Counties is described in a Facebook post by Dr. Lawrence Gilbert of the University of Texas at Austin, who with colleagues found the pests. While it is very unfortunate that the cactus moth is in Texas, we are quite fortunate that Dr. Gilbert and his colleagues discovered it in more counties, because that means that we now know that its distribution is greater than previously known and that we now recognize that resources must be rallied as soon as possible to prevent its spread and hopefully even rid our state of it.

For more information on the cactus moth, see the Invasive Species Spotlight below, and this webpage and this webpage.

If you think you have found cactus moth damage, egg stacks, or larvae (adults are difficult to identify), please submit a Sentinel Pest Network report as soon as possible! You will need to take a good photo that experts will be able to use to determine what species you found.

cactus larva and ruler
Cactus moth larva. Credit: Susan Ellis, USDA APHIS PPQ, Bugwood.org

cactus moth alert

How Asian Carp Went from Weed-Control Agent to Invasive Nightmare

An excellent article in The Leaf Chronicle details the history of Asian carp — which includes any of four species: silver carp (Hypophthalmichthys molitrix), grass carp (Ctenopharyngodon idella), bighead carp (Hypophthalmichthys nobilis), and black carp (Mylopharyngodon piceus) — in North America. The article covers the problems they cause, the history of their introduction and spread, and the methods being used to try to manage their numbers and their spread. With millions of fish in the Mississippi River drainage and other water bodies, managing the fish is a very challenging job. One big focus is preventing the fish from entering the Great Lakes, as we have noted in various issues of the iWire.

bighead carp
Bighead carp (Hypophthalmichthys nobilis). Credit: Michigan Sea Grant , University of Michigan and Michigan State University, Bugwood.org

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

The Texas Gulf Region Cooperative Weed Management Area (TGR-CWMA) held its semiannual open meeting in Port Aransas on February 18. Among the topics discussed were updates on funding, treatments for the removal of Brazilian peppertrees (BPT) in Charlie's Pasture and near the UT-Marine Science Institute (UTMSI), and continued outreach efforts. One welcome piece of news was that TPWD Coastal Fisheries will be providing funding for a project to help Port Aransas residents remove BPT from their property and replace them with native trees. In addition, the CWMA held a workday of removing BPT from UTMSI and private properties. A total of 23 people, including volunteers and Port Aransas and UTMSI staff, were involved. Members of the CWMA also provided outreach during the Whooping Crane Festival.

The second semiannual meeting for 2019 will likely be in held in late September or early October. Expect there to be a workday and outreach events as well.

workday group photo
2020 Workday crew at UTMSI. Credit: Hans Landel, Texasinvasives.org, LBJ Wildflower Center

March 2020 Issue of Water Log Focuses on Invasive Species

The Water Log is a quarterly publication of the Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Legal Program. This issue focuses on Invasive Species. It features these articles:

  • Too Little, Too Late: A History of Invasive Species Laws - "The legal history of trying to control invasive species demonstrates that banning species after they have been introduced is futile."
  • Protecting Mississippi Waterways from Aquatic Invasive Species - Discusses the Aquatic Invasive Species Program of the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources and several aquatic invasive species in Mississippi.
  • An Overview of Native and Invasive Crayfish in Mississippi and Alabama
  • Addressing Invasive Species Concerns within a Municipal Policy Framework - "[W]hile invasive species may not be a core concern for city policymakers, good stewardship necessitates that cities develop basic strategies to curb the presence of invasive species in order to maintain a high level of environmental performance within the public spaces managed by city governments."

Read the publication.





North American Invasive Species Management Association Training Webinars

The program is designed to provide the education needed for professionals and students who are managing or learning to manage invasive species. The courses include the most current invasive species identification, control and management techniques and how to comply with local and federal regulations.

Participants may register and enroll at any time and will receive a certificate of invasive species management from NAISMA upon completion of the program.

NAISMA 2020 Webinar Schedule; webinar links will be coming soon.

  • March 18 – Stephen Enloe, University of Florida: Individual Plant Treatment Techniques for Woody Invasive Species in the US
  • April 15 – Robert (Bob) Rabaglia, USDA – Forest Service: Invasive Bark and Ambrosia Beetles: Their Impacts and Detection
  • May 20 – Kurt Dreisilker, Morton Arboretum: Public Gardens as Sentinels Against Invasive Plants
  • June 17 – Forest Eidbo, Minnesota DNR: Making Educational Signage that People Actually Read, According to the Experts
  • July 15 – Gary Lovett, Cary Institute of Ecosystem Science: Invasive Forest Pests in the U.S.: Impacts and Policy Solutions



National Invasive Species Awareness Week II Is Coming

NISAW Part II – Local Events and Awareness runs May 16-23, 2020. It will cover:

  • Press release toolkit
  • Action toolkit
  • Find local invasive species prevention, removal, and educational events

You could be involved! If you are an Invaders of Texas citizen scientist, consider doing some mapping for the 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 for more information as it becomes available.

NISAW 2020 graphic

NOAA Innovator Series to Feature Lionfish Control

As part of this NOAA brown bag series the March 18 talk (12-1 PM ET) will feature Brent Roeder, of R3 Digital Sciences, discussing innovative Lionfish control tools. See this NOAA Central Library webpage for information on how to register. The seminars will also be recorded and available via the NOAA Central Library Archive or its YouTube channel.

Credit: NOAA Archives

Invasive Species Workshop

When: April 19 @ 1:00 pm - 2:30 pm

Where: University of Texas at Austin Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center (LBJWC)

Come and learn from Dr. Hans Landel, conservation ecologist and manager of the TexasInvasives.org website and the Invaders of Texas citzen science program (and editor of the iWire), as he presents major species of concern in Texas, talks about global and local invasive species management, and empowers you to get involved.

Space is limited and registration is required. $15, FREE for LBJWC members. Register.


Invasive Spotlight:
Cactus Moth
Cactoblastis cactorum)

The cactus moth, Cactoblastis cactorum, is a considerable threat to the native Opuntia cactus population and the ecosystem it supports. The larvae of the cactus moth live and feed communally inside the pads of any species of prickly pear cacti, which eventually kills the plant if the infestation is high enough. The cactus moth, a native of South America, is so efficient at eliminating Opuntia cacti that it is used as a biological control agent in areas where Opuntia are invasive.  It has the potential to destroy Opuntia communites from Texas down through Mexico.

Cactus moth larvae are pink-cream colored at first and as they age they become bright orange-red with large dark spots forming transverse bands. Mature larvae are 2.5 to 3 cm (about an inch) long. The larvae are much easier to identify than the non-descript adults. Females lay on average 70-90 eggs in a distinctive stick-like formation that extends out from the cactus pad.

Damage to cactus pads by feeding can be identified by characteristic oozing of internal plant juices and insect droppings. The interior of the pads may be entirely eaten, resulting in a translucent pad.

Unfortunately, the cactus moth has now been found in Texas, in Brazoria County in 2018 and in Calhoun, Colorado, and Matagorda Counties in 2019. It is established in Florida and South Carolina and has been reported in Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana. It is one of the “Dirty Dozen” pest species identified by the Texas Invasive Plant and Pest Council. Therefore, it is one of the “Report It!” alert species on the Texasinvasives.org website and reporting app.

If you believe you have found cactus moth damage, egg stacks or larvae (adults are difficult to identify), please report it. You will need to submit a photo.

Follow this link and this link for more information on the cactus moth.

Cactus moth adult, larva, & eggs

Photo credits: (top) Susan Ellis, USDA APHIS PPQ, Bugwood.org; (mid) Jeffrey W. Lotz, Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Bugwood.org; (bottom) CMDMN

cactus moth damage

Left: Frass and oozing. (http://www.arc.agric.za/arc- ppri/Fact%20Sheets%20Library/Cactoblastis%20
cactorum, %20cactus%20moth.pdf)
Right: Translucence (LSU AgCenter)

Cactus Moth Map

Source: Cactus Moth Detection and Monitoring Network (CMDMN) (2017)


More News

How Burmese Pythons Took Over the Florida Everglades
Starting in the 1980s, the swamps of the South Florida Everglades have been overrun by one of the most damaging invasive species the region has ever seen: the Burmese python (Python bivittatus). Learn more about how the snake became a problem at the History Channel's website.

Researchers Are Working to Find Out Why the Lionfish Population Is Taking a Dive
Researchers with Florida Fish and Wildlife say fewer Lionfish (Pterois volitans) are being seen on Florida reefs frequently used by divers. They're not sure why, but they believe it will help to know why they have thrived in Florida waters in the first place. Read more at fox4now.com.

Generalist Diet Helps Invasive Crayfish Thrive Where It's Introduced
An invasive species of crayfish that is taking over streams from Wisconsin to Maine might be successful because it's not a fussy eater, according to biologists. The rusty crayfish (Faxonius rusticus) is native to Ohio but is thriving as far away as Canada. Read more at sciencedaily.com.

Asian Hornet Spreads to Northern Germany
Known to prey on many insects, including honeybees and other beneficiary species, the Asian hornet (Vespa mandarinia), which had recently invaded parts of Europe, presents a serious threat to apiculture and even to ecosystems. In early September 2019, a single specimen was collected alive in Hamburg (Germany), representing the northernmost find of the species so far. Read more at sciencedaily.com.

Why the Goby Can Conquer the Waters of the World
The round goby (Neogobius melanostomus), one of the most common invasive freshwater fish in the world, boasts a particularly robust immune system, which could be one of the reasons for its excellent adaptability. Read 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 Workshops

Invaders of Texas workshops train volunteers to detect and report invasive species as citizen scientists. Workshops, which are free, are designed to introduce participants to invasive species and the problems they cause, cover aspects of invasive species management, and teach identification of local invasive plants, and to train participants to report invasive plants using the TX Invaders mobile application. The workshop is 7 hours long (usually on a Saturday, but scheduling is arranged with each individual host group). The workshop satisfies Master Naturalist training requirements.

Sentinel Pest Network workshops serve to increase the awareness and early detection of a set of particularly important invasive species, to help prevent their spread into Texas or their further spread within Texas. Participants learn to identify species such as the Emerald Ash Borer, Cactus Moth, Asian Longhorned Beetle, and other pests of regulatory significance, and to report them. The workshop is 3.5 hours long. The workshop satisfies Master Naturalist training requirements.

Upcoming Workshops:

Saturday, March 7, 2020
Invaders of Texas Workshop
Location: Landa Haus, 360 Aquatic Circle (New Braunfels, TX)
Contact: Jean Wilson

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

If you are interested in hosting or scheduling an Invaders of Texas Citizen Science or Sentinel Pest Network workshop in your area, please email the Invaders Program Coordinator.