January 2020
Invasive in Texas, in Danger in Africa

Texas is home to many "Texotics", non-native hoofed animals that are raised on Texas ranches for hunting and recreation. A subset of these species is disappearing from their native lands, and a few of those have escaped from their Texas homes and become problems in the Texas landscape. This has created the intriguing situation where the animals are being hunted here in Texas while their numbers are simultaneously plummeting "back home". One such species is the aoudad, or Barbary sheep (Ammotragus lervia), which looks similar and has similar habitat requirements to our native desert bighorn sheep (Ovis canadensis nelson). An article in The Atlantic describes the paradox of the aoudad and its negative effects on the desert bighorn sheep, a species that itself is in peril. "'A wealth of anecdotal evidence does suggest that aoudads are a threat to Texas’s native wildlife', says Louis Harveson, a Sul Ross State University professor and wildlife biologist who founded the school’s Borderlands Research Institute." Yet the population of aoudad here in Texas may offer hope to reintroduce them to the mountains of the Sahara and North Africa. They may become another example of how "[o]ver the last half century, coordinated efforts have transplanted Texotics back to their homelands in the eleventh hour of a species’s survival in the wild."

Barbary Sheep
Aoudad, or Barbary sheep ram. Credit: MJLepper, Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 4.0

Desert Bighorn sheep ram
Desert bighorn sheep ram. Credit: Andrew Barna, Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0

Trump Administration Drops Invasive Species Advisory Committee

Somehow the iWire missed this, but at the end of September last year, President Donald Trump signed an executive order that among other things discontinued the Department of the Interior's Invasive Species Advisory Committee. The ISAC's "primary duty is to 'provide information and advice for consideration by the [National Invasive Species Council] on invasive-species related issues. ISAC members include representatives of state, territorial, tribal, and local governments, as well as academic institutions, non-governmental organizations, and the private sector." The EO also dropped the Marine Protected Areas Federal Advisory Committee. The Hill provides much more detail on what may have led to the demise of both Committees.

Dept Interior logo

Dogs "Becoming Major Threat" to Wildlife

We know that house cats (Felis catus), domestic and feral, have a huge impact on local wildlife. Now researchers have determined the effect that dogs (Canis lupus familiaris) are having on wildlife. They counted how many species across the globe are negatively affected by dogs, assessed the prevalence of different types of impacts, and identified regions with the greatest number of affected species. They determined that dogs are the third most destructive mammal predatory species. At least 11 species went extinct at least in part because of dogs. To learn more about these impacts, read more at bbc.com and phys.org.

dogs attack wildlife Africa
Credit: Vikaspatil

Texas Gulf Region CWMA to Hold Meeting and Workday During Week of Port Aransas Whooping Crane Festival

The Texas Gulf Region Cooperative Weed Management Area (TGR-CWMA) will hold a workday to remove Brazilian peppertrees (Schinus terebinthifolia) on February 18, 8 am - 11 pm. Meet at the City of Port Aransas' Nature Preserve office, 100 Cut Off Rd., Port Aransas, TX. Please dress appropriately and bring water. Tools and gloves provided, but bring your own gloves if you have them.

Also on February 18, the TGR-CWMA will hold its semiannual meeting at 2pm in the Estuarine Research Center Seminar Room at the University of Texas Marine Science Institute, 750 Channel View Dr., Port Aransas, TX. 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.

We are also looking for volunteers to represent the CWMA at the Birding Center, Paradise Pond, and Community Center. Contact Rae Mooney at theCity of Port Aransas for more information.

See you there!


Group photo Feb 2019
2019 Workday crew. Credit: Colleen Simpson, City of Port Aransas

National Leaders Align to Prevent the Spread of Invasive Species

Wildlife Forever, the North American Invasive Species Management Association, National Park Service, and US Fish and Wildlife Service have signed a new Memorandum of Understanding to enhance coordination of invasive species prevention messaging across public lands and waters. The new agreement aims to increase the reach of national prevention campaigns such as PlayCleanGo®, Stop Invasive Species In Your Tracks®, Clean Drain Dry Initiative™, and Stop Aquatic Hitchhikers on federal lands and waters. Learn more at www.naisma.org.


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.

  • February 19 – Deah Lieurance, University of Florida: Risk Analysis Framework and Overcoming Roadblocks to Implementation
  • March 18 – Stephen Enloe, University of Florida
  • April 15 – Robert (Bob) Rabaglia, USDA – Forest Service: Individual plant treatment techniques for woody invasive species in the US.
  • May 20 – Kurt Dreisilker, Morton Arboretum: How the Morton Arboretum approaches invasive species prevention and EDRR
  • 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 Is Coming

This year, National Invasive Species Awareness Week is actually TWO weeks! NISAW Part I – Advocacy and Education runs February 24-28, 2020. It will cover:

  • Promotion of national and local legislative actions
  • Position papers
  • Tools and resources for communicating with policy makers
  • Webinar series

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

Special Issue of Biological Invasions to Cover Federal Risk Screening

Articles on federal risk screening capacity are being published in a special issue of the scientific journal Biological Invasions. By end of the month all 12 of the articles should be available online. They will cover watch lists, taxonomy/species verification, legal authorities/regulations/policies, information systems, etc., intended to advance early detection and rapid response to invasive species be they animals, plants, parasites or pathogens.

Here are links to the 12 open access articles:

1. Conceptual Framework.
2. Information Management.
3. Information Management Guidance.
4. Watch Lists.
5. Risk Screening.
6. Target Analysis.
7. Technology.
8. Taxonomy.
9. Legal Authorities.
10. Legal Authorities Guidance.
11. Incident Command System Guidance.
12. Blueprint.


Harpoon-Throwing Robot Is Designed to Hunt Lionfish

In Florida, as in Texas, the invasive lionfish (Pterois volitans) is disrupting the marine ecosystem. The only way to control them is to kill them, so divers join lionfish derbies or hunt individually. However, the lionfish can live up to 1000 feet below the surface, putting them out of reach of human hunters. "Florida’s answer to this dilemma? A remotely operated vehicle (ROV) that uses a harpoon gun to exterminate its ruffly target," according to an article in Popular Science. "The 'reef sweeper' is designed to snag lionfish lurking well below the water’s surface. On land, a trained employee uses a joystick to home in on the target, almost like in a video game." See it in action.

Credit: NOAA Archives

Learn to Hunt Lionfish

Looking to learn how to hunt lionfish to help remove them from Texas marine habitat? Don't own a harpoon-throwing robot? The Texas Lionfish Control Unit is offering trips to Florida from April to October to train participants to find and hunt the lionfish. While the trips are outside of Texas, they will provide you with the training you may be looking for and that you could use here in Texas. You can also contact the Unit for information on hunting lionfish in Texas. See their website for more information.

Texas Liofish Control Unit photo
Credit: Texas Lionfish Control Unit

Invasive Spotlight:
Brown Fir Longhorned Beetle
(Callidiellum villosulum)

The brown fir longhorned beetle is a wood-boring beetle that attacks trees in the Taxodiaceae (now placed in the Cupressacea). Originally from China, the beetle may attack North American members of the family, which include the sequoia (Sequoia), redwood (Sequoiadendron), and bald cypress (Taxodium). Due to the geographic isolation of some species, especially the sequoias, an infestation of these beetles could be especially dangerous. In addition, its native Chinese host tree species, which belong to genera that do not exist in North America, have been planted throughout the United States and thus may offer a foothold for the beetles to damage landscapes.

Adults are 6-12 mm long, chestnut brown in color, and thinly covered with long grayish stiff hairs (see photos at right). The male antennae are slightly longer than the body, whereas the female antennae are about two-thirds of the body length. The prothorax is wider than its length, and the two sides are rounded with no lateral spikes. The ventral portion of the thorax and the femur of all appendages are brownish-red and thickened. Some characteristics of the head and antennae may require a hand lens to see.

Larvae are about 10 mm long, light yellow in color, and the body is slightly flat. The mouthparts are blackish-brown. The pronotum has a pair of brown markings. The thoracic legs are receded. As with other longhorned beetles, they burrow in the wood under the bark.

This beetle appears to be spread by humans, especially in imported trees and in wood trunks of artificial Christmas trees imported from China. The adults are capable of flight, but it is unknown if they will be able to distribute themselves great distances. As recently as this past March (2016), about 60 live specimens were collected by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, that had emerged from log furniture from China in a warehouse. In a nationwide effort coordinated by USDA-APHIS, furniture from over 40 states was collected and destroyed. (Information) While currently not established in Texas, individuals have been found at Texas ports including Houston.

Because of its potential threat to Texas, the brown fir 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 a brown fir longhorned beetle, please report this species. Because there are many native longhorned beetles that might be confused with the brown fir longhorned beetle, we ask that you collect a specimen to aid in identification.

Follow this link to learn more about the brown fir longhorned beetle.

Callidiellum villosulum

Credit: Steven Valley, Oregon Department of Agriculture, Bugwood.org

Callidiellum villosulum setae

Credit: Greg Bartman, USDA-APHIS PPQ, Bugwood,org


brown fir longhorned beetle

By the Numbers
  • 32,000+: Number of watercraft the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) inspected in 2019, a 31% increase from 2018. About one third of inspected watercraft came from known infested waters in other states. WDFW detected 18 vessels carrying invasive mussels and 1,200 vessels that failed to meet the clean–drain–dry requirements. More.
  • 29: Number of Louisiana parishes in which invasive apple snails (Pomacea maculata) were found. More.
  • $25 million (a record): Amount secured to help fight the Asian carp infestation in western Kentucky and throughout the region. More.

More News

Native Species or Invasive? The Distinction Blurs as the World Warms
With thousands of species on the move as the climate changes, a growing number of scientists say that the dichotomy between native and alien species has become an outdated concept and that efforts must be made to help migrating species adapt to their new habitats. For more on this controversial point of view, read more at Yale.e360.edu.

Volunteers Maintain Historic Headwaters Sanctuary, Origin Point of San Antonio
An article in the San Antonio Express-News (subscription required) describes how volunteers help to clear up debris, remove invasive plants, and educate locals about the historic Headwaters at Incarnate Word Sanctuary. A 53-acre nature sanctuary that is home to the Blue Hole, the source spring of the San Antonio River, Headwaters at Incarnate Word is "restoring the urban landscape in an effort to increase biodiversity and benefit local wildlife". Visit the Sanctuary's website for more information on volunteering. Read about a recent volunteer effort below.

Red Imported Fire Ant Virus Discovered
United States Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service (USDA-ARS) scientists have discovered a new virus found in fire ants from Argentina that have the potential for becoming a biological control agent against the red imported fire ants (Solenopsis invicta) infesting the United States. Learn more at Pest Control Technology.

Aphid-Munching Beetle Could Help Save Hemlock Forests
A potential ally for one of North America’s most embattled trees has passed its first big test. A tiny predatory beetle, Laricobius nigrinus, that researchers have been rearing and releasing into forests appears to be doing damage to an aphidlike pest that poses a deadly threat to ecologically important eastern hemlock trees (Tsuga canadensis), a 5-year study has found. Learn more at sciencemag.org.

Are Ash Borers Hopping Trains to Spread through Forests?
A recent study has found a correlation between the location of emerald ash borer (Agrilus planipennis) outbreaks in Iowa and railroads. Learn more at wildlife.org.

Feral Animals Impact Wildlife Disaster Recovery Plans in Australia
Efforts to save Australian wildlife from the impacts of catastrophic bushfires will fail unless the control of foxes, feral cats, horses and deer are a major part of wildlife disaster recovery plans, the Invasive Species Council warns. Read more at portnews.com/.

A Huge Underwater Electric Fence Is the Great Lakes’ Big Hope Against a Carp Invasion
Last month's iWire included a More News item about the Illinois governor's reluctance to fund a barrier to keep Asian carp (actually four species of fish: bighead carp [Hypophthalmichthys nobilis], silver carp [H. molitrix], grass carp [Ctenopharyngodon idella], and black carp [Mylopharyngodon piceus]) from entering the Great Lakes. This informative article from OneZero describes the effort, the underwater electric "fence" in the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal.

Can a Tiny Invasive Snail Help Save Latin American Coffee?
Researchers have found that the widespread invasive Asian tramp snail (Bradybaena similaris), normally a plant-eater, had shifted its diet to consume the fungal pathogen that causes coffee leaf rust (Hemileia vastatrix), which has ravaged coffee plantations across Latin America in recent years. Learn more at sciencedaily.com.

Can DNA Editing Help Wipe Out Invasive Grey Squirrels in UK?
The invasive North American grey squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis) is facing arguably its biggest control threat yet, with plans to harness the cutting edge of genetic science to bring their destructive reign to an end. Learn more at Scotsman.com.

Five Predictions for Ballast Water Treatment Technology in 2020
At the current rate of type-approval, it is highly likely these 10 Ballast Water Management Systems (BWMS) will be approved by the end of 2020, bringing the total to 33 US Coast Guard type-approved BWMS on the market. Read more at rivieramm.com.

Opinion: Shipowners Must Unite Against the Ballast Water Management Convention
While we're on the topic: Celsius Shipping’s chief operating officer Niels Stig Christensen believes shipowners have been too passive when it comes to accepting regulations. Read the full opinion piece at rivieramm.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.

Citizen Scientists Spotlight
Headwaters at Incarnate Word Volunteers

Saturday was the first day of volunteer activity of 2020 at the Headwaters at Incarnate Word Sanctuary, continuing the weekly work performed to improve the habitat of the Sanctuary, a 53-acre nature sanctuary that is home to the Blue Hole, the source spring of the San Antonio River. Danny Ingram was Field Leader, with help from Rowena Ochiagha and Tom Willems. Volunteers dragged cuttings to the wood chipper, while Tom cut down more invasive ligustrum trees. While the volunteers were at work, a reporter from the San Antonio Express-News, Diego Mendoza-Moyers, interviewed volunteers and Field Leaders Danny and Rowena. See the article above. Visit the Sanctuary's website for more information on volunteering.

  Headwaters at Incarnate Word logo

Headwaters group photo

Credit: Headwaters at Incarnate Word

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, February 15, 2020
Invaders of Texas Workshop
Location: Houston Advanced Research Center (The Woodlands, TX)
Contact: Teri MacArthur

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.