January 2018
Texas Invasive Plant and Pest Conference POSTPONED

Due to the impact that the uncertainty in federal funding is having on many of our likely participants, the Texas Invasive Plant and Pest Council has decided to postpone the Conference until October 23 - 26. We will be opening abstract submission shortly on the Conference website. Check back at that website and our Facebook page for more information as it becomes available. Information will also be updated here in the iWire.



Texas Gulf Region Cooperative Weed Management Area to Hold Meeting and Work Day During Port Aransas Whooping Crane Festival

The Texas Gulf Region Cooperative Weed Management Area (TGR-CWMA) will be holding events in association with the Port Aransas Whooping Crane Festival. Its first semiannual meeting will be held February 21, 2 pm, in the Nature Preserve Headquarters, 106 Cut Off Rd., Port Aransas, TX 78373. The meeting is open to the public and you are encouraged to attend. Come and meet us, and hear what the CWMA has accomplished and what we are planning.

The TGR-CWMA will hold a work day to remove Brazilian peppertrees, also on February 21, 9 am to noon. Meet at the Community Park on Ross Avenue. Please dress appropriately and bring water. Tools and gloves provided, but bring your own gloves if you have them.

During the Whooping Crane Festival, February 22-25, representatives of the TGR-CWMA will join other volunteers at Paradise Pond, and will be at a table at the Community Center. Stop by to see us and get information!

remove Brazilian peppertree

Credit: Hans Landel, Lady Bird johnson Wildflower Center


"Texas Standard" Airs Segments on Invasives

In Lake Fork, a Tiny Plant Threatens Trophy-Sized Fish, and a Way of Life
"Giant salvinia [(Salvinia molesta)], a half-dollar-sized plant that enters the lake on the underside of boat trailers, is decimating the largemouth bass population." Texas Standard.

Meet The Grass That’s Eating Southeast Texas
"Two kinds of bluestem grasses[, including King Ranch (or 'KR') bluestem (Bothriochloa ischaemum var. songarica),] are taking over pasture land they once saved from drought." Texas Standard.


King Ranch bluestem along roadside

KR Bluestem. Credit: Michael Marks, Texas Standard

Some Argue The Vocabulary and Effort Surrounding Invasives Is Misguided

Over the past several years, a discussion has been growing about the way ecologists, conservation biologists, restoration biologists, natural resource managers, and others talk about "invasive species". A big part of the discussion centers around the language used, such as "exotic", "alien", "battle" and even the term "invader". An article at Smithsonian.com explores these issues, opening with the U.S. Department of Agriculture's "tick riders" in South Texas as they search for cattle infected with ticks that carry cattle fever. Cattle fever ticks also use the introduced Nilgai antelope (Boselaphus tragocamelus) as a host. "In an era of renewed focus on borders, it’s hard to ignore the similarities between how we talk about non-native animals—hyper-fertile 'foreigners' colonizing 'native' ecosystems—and the words some use to discuss human immigration." Others argue that "[m]ilitary language … is often simply an accurate description of the threat and the necessary work of mitigating it." It should also be noted that when applied to humans, terms such as "alien" and "non-native" are being applied to populations within the same species (us), in contrast to when the terms are applied to non-human species. It behooves us as participants in this "battle" that we consider these arguments.



Nilgai antelope. Credit: BrokenArrowRanch.com

Uh-Oh! Many Midwestern Retailers Sell Mislabeled Invasive Vines

Gardeners hoping to celebrate the beauty of American bittersweet (Celastrus scandens) -- a native vine that produces orange berries in the fall and is used for wreaths -- may be unwittingly buying an invasive bittersweet instead. That's because many Midwestern retailers are selling oriental bittersweet (Celastrus orbiculatus) with labels misidentifying it as the native plant, researchers report. These sales are occurring in stores and online. The analysis, conducted by Illinois Natural History Survey plant ecologist David Zaya and his colleagues at the University of Illinois at Chicago and the U.S. Geological Survey, revealed that 54 percent of the 34 purchased plants labeled "American bittersweet" and/or "Celastrus scandens" were in fact oriental bittersweet. Seven of the 11 Midwest vendors tested were selling mislabeled plants. This disturbing discovery demonstrates that vendors need to be better educated and that buyers need to beware. Be sure to read the plant's labels! Learn more at sciencedaily.com. See also this page on the site "The Spruce" for more on information on the two species of bittersweet as well as a third (the nightshade species).


American Bittersweet. Credit: Sharon Barotz and Carrie Bilodeau, Brandeis University


Oriental Bittersweet overgrowing trees. Credit: Massachusetts Audubon

Invaders of Texas Spotlight

Dana Wilson, of the Blackland Prairie Invaders satellite group, kindly penned the following story.

On November 11, 2017, 35 members of the North Texas Master Naturalists descended upon a pocket prairie adjoining the campus of Mountain View College, southwest of downtown Dallas, determined to beat back encroaching invasive species. The oak/ash/cedar elm treeline that defines this area has increasingly been overtaken by privet (Ligustrum), amur honeysuckle (Lonicera maackii), and Chinese pistache (Pistacia chinensis). When volunteers began removing invasive plant material, they were thrilled to uncover saplings of valuable trees and understory shrubs like toothache tree (Zanthoxylum clava-herculis) and Carolina buckthorn (Frangula caroliniana); they even found big bluestem (Andropogon gerardii) hidden behind a row of privet.

Master Naturalist and adjunct biology instructor Adam Cochran, who coordinated the project, shared what this area – and this project – can teach both Mountain View science students and area naturalists. “There are so many principles of biology that are visible in this prairie: succession, how invasive species negatively impact succession, and how human intervention is often needed – especially in urban areas – to protect the diversity within our 'wild' spaces," he said. “This prairie is full of wildflowers, native grasses, eastern bluebirds… When students and naturalists study a beautiful wild space like this, they come to understand the complex interactions that made it possible, and they want to protect it.”

pulling privet toward the brush pile

Credit: Carroll Mayhew, North Texas Master Naturalists

Invasive Spotlight:
Asian Longhorned Beetle
(Anoplophora glabripennis)

This insect, originally from Asia, is a serious threat to many species of deciduous hardwood trees in the United States (e.g., maple, elm, willow, birch, horsechestnut, and poplar). During its larval stage, the Asian longhorned beetle (ALB) bores deep into a tree's heartwood, where it feeds on nutrients. This tunneling damages, and eventually kills, the tree. It has the potential to devastate recreational and forest resources and industries, as well as urban and suburban environments.

ALB is a large, distinctive-looking insect measuring 1 to 1.5 inches long, not including its antennae. These antennae, which give the insect its common name, are as long as the body itself in females and almost twice the body length in males. The insect's body is shiny black with white spots; the antennae are banded in black and white. In Texas it may be confused with the cottonwood borer, which also has a black-and-white pattern. However, the cottonwood borer has white cross-stripes with length-wise stripes as well instead of spots, and it has black antennae instead of the banded antennae of the ALB (see photos at right).

Symptoms of infected trees include unseasonably yellow or drooping leaves when the weather has not been especially dry; dead or fallen branches; dime-sized (3/8 inch or greater) perfectly round exit holes; shallow scars in the bark (egg-laying sites); and sawdust-like excrement (frass) in branch crotches or at the base of trees.

ALB is presently not found in Texas, and let's keep it that way! One way it can infest new areas is through inadvertent transport within infested firewood. Please, do not move firewood: burn only local wood.

Because of its potential negative impacts in Texas, the Asian longhorned beetle is a Report It! species as part of the Sentinel Pest Network, a component of Texasinvasives.org. If you believe you have found an Asian longhorned beetle, please report this species. We also ask that you please collect a specimen to aid in identification.

Follow this link for more information on the Asian longhorned beetle.


Credits: Michael Bohne, Marshall Coulter

    ALB evidence

Top Left: Oviposition site and exit hole (J. Forman Orth, Massachusetts Dept. of Agricultural Services)  Top Right: Frass (City of Toronto Parks, Forestry and Recreation)  Bottom: Exit hole (Joe Boggs, Ohio State University, Bugwood.org)

ALB alert

More News

Invasive Tree Species: Call for Action to Tackle Threat to a Global Biodiversity Hotspot
An invasive Australian tree is now posing a serious threat to a global diversity 'hotspot' in the natural forests of Jamaica's Blue and John Crow Mountains National Park. The tree species, Pittosporum undulatum, known locally as 'mock orange', is threatening many rare and endangered species, some of which are found nowhere else in the world. Learn more at sciencedaily.com.

Agricultural Parasite Takes Control of Host Plant's Genes
Dodder (Cuscuta campestris), a parasitic plant that causes major damage to crops in the US and worldwide every year, can silence the expression of genes in the host plants from which it obtains water and nutrients, an ability that has never been observed in a parasitic plant before. Learn more at sciencedaily.com.

Genome Size May Affect Whether Plants Become Invasive
Scientist studying 100 populations of the invasive plant Phragmites have found evidence to suggest that the most significant factor in determining whether a plant will become invasive is the size of its genome. Learn more at sciencedaily.com.

Worldwide Importance of Honey Bees for Natural Habitats Reported
An unprecedented study integrating data from around the globe has shown that honey bees (Apis mellifera) are the world's most important single species of pollinator in natural ecosystems and a key contributor to natural ecosystem functions. The report weaves together information from 80 plant-pollinator interaction networks. However, the report also indicates that there is still much we don't know about the impact of honey bees on native plants and pollinators (see next news item). Learn more at sciencedaily.com.

Think of Honeybees as 'Livestock,' Not Wildlife, Argue Experts
Contrary to public perception, die-offs in honeybee colonies are an agricultural not a conservation issue, argue researchers, who say that managed honeybees may contribute to the genuine biodiversity crisis of Europe's declining wild pollinators. Learn more at sciencedaily.com.

Predicting the Behavior of Invasive Weeds
Is it possible to predict which nonnative plant species will become invasive weeds and when? According to research featured in the journal Invasive Plant Science and Management, the answer is “hopefully yes.” And those predictions can lead to more effective and cost-efficient weed management. Learn more at ipmsouth.com.

Genetic Drift Caught in Action in Invasive Birds
Studies of the genetics of a species that arrived in Hawaii in the twentieth century through decidedly unnatural means — us – has provided evidence for one of the five mechanisms of evolution. A study of Japanese Bush-Warblers (Horornis diphone) is allowing researchers to study genetic drift in action. 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 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, February 24, 2018
Sentinel Pest Network Workshop
Location: Headwaters of the Incarnate Word (San Antonio, TX)
Contact: Pamela Ball
Registration: DO NOT REGISTER AT TEXASINVASIVES.ORG. For more information and to register, please go to this webpage>


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