July 2018
7th TIPPC Conference: Deadlines Extended, Venue Is the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

The 7th Texas Invasive Plant and Pest Conference is taking place October 23 - 26 in Austin at the beautiful Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. The deadlines for submitting symposium proposals and applications for Student Travel Grants, and for registration, have been moved to Friday, August 31. The deadline for submitting abstracts has been moved to Friday, September 21. Please submit as soon as possible on the Conference website!

Exhibitors and sponsors will find information on the website.

Registration will open soon, and field trips are being finalized.

Check back at the conference website and our Facebook page for more information as it becomes available. Information will also be updated here in the iWire.


TIPPC Conference 2018 date


Stay Vigilant! Emerald Ash Borer Expands Its Range in Texas

It is with sadness and trepidation that I must report that the emerald ash borer (Agrilus planipennis) (EAB) is expanding its range in Texas. Those of you in Harrison, Marion, Cass, Tarrant and Parker Counties, and their neighboring counties, must now be extra vigilant.

This highly destructive beetle, which has already killed hundreds of millions of ash trees from the Great Lakes to Louisiana and to the East Coast, was found in traps set out to monitor EAB in Cass and Marion Counties in the northeast corner of the state earlier this year. In addition, beetles were found in 6 – 7 more traps in Harrison County, where EAB was originally discovered in a trap in May 2016. Cass and Marion Counties are located just north of Harrison County, so this is not unexpected.

The next part of the story, which you can read in this Texas A&M AgriLife Extension "Insects in the City" blog post, illustrates the importance of citizen scientists/naturalists and of user-friendly mobile apps that allow reports to be submitted easily. On 28 March 2017, 10-year old naturalist Sam Hunt documented a beetle using the mobile app iNaturalist a few miles north of the Fort Worth Nature Center. It wasn't until July of this year that it was identified on iNaturalist as an EAB.

The observation was subsequently submitted to Texasinvasives.org using the Sentinel Pest Network Report It function and to bugguide. The Fort Worth Nature Center and entomologists at Texas A&M Forest Service (TAMFS),Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, and USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (USDA-APHIS) were then notified.

On 25 July 2018, specialists from TAMFS, TPWD, TA&M AgriLife and others investigated the location. They found nothing in a monitoring trap nearby, but possible evidence of infested trees. While inconclusive, it is enough that the area will continue to be monitored.

Dr. Michael E. Merchant, Professor and Extension Urban Entomologist with TA&M AgriLife, gave an excellent interview on television.

For more information on EAB:
- Texasinvasives.org
- Hello Emerald Ash Borer. Good-bye Ash Trees in Texas.
- Texas A&M Forest Service
- Emerald Ash Borer Information Network

If you think you have found an emerald ash borer beetle or larva, or an ash tree with symptoms of infestation, please report it as soon as possible here. You will need to take a good photo, and if possible you should collect the adult or larva, placed in alcohol.

Please pass the word. By remaining vigilant, together we can help to prevent the spread of this destructive pest in Texas!

Emerald Ash Borer on penny
Credit: Howard Russell, Michigan State University, Bugwood.org

How Cities and Towns Can Prepare For Emerald Ash Borer Invasion

Now that the emerald ash borer has been found in Texas, communities need to start planning for its appearance in their areas. They will find help from Pennsylvania's Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. The agency has released a new guide that outlines a set of four options for communities to choose from as they prepare for the impact of EAB. Learn more at sciencedaily.org.

EAB street control
Credit: Howard Russell, Michigan State University, Bugwood.org

Cactus Moth Found in Brazoria County, A First for Texas

Not only does Texas now need to watch for the emerald ash borer, we also need to be on the lookout for the cactus moth (Cactoblastis cactorum). It was recently found, FOR THE FIRST TIME IN TEXAS, in Brazoria County. Those of you who live in Bazoria County and its neighboring counties need to keep your eyes peeled!

This pest feeds on prickly pear (Opuntia species) and can cause extensive damage. For more information see this page at Texasinvasives.org and this website.

The best way to identify the moth is by identifying the larvae. The caterpillars feed as a group within the prickly pear pads. They are red-orange with black spots that become stripes as they age. Nothing else looks like them. If you think you have found cactus moth larvae, please report your observation ASAP to the Sentinel Pest Network. You will need to submit a good photo, and please collect a specimen in alcohol if possible. Help keep this pest from spreading in Texas!

Spread the word!!

Cactus moth adult-larva-eggs
Credit: Adult, larva: Jeffrey W. Lotz, Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Bugwood.org Jeffrey W. Lotz, Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Bugwood.org. Eggstick: http://www.gri.msstate.edu/research/
cmdmn/ images/ eggstick.jpg

Virginia Teen Suffered Third Degree Burns After Encountering Giant Hogweed

If you thought that poison ivy was the worst plant to rub against, think again. Giant hogweed (Heracleum mantegazzianum) is worse. Instead of causing an itchy rash, this invasive plant causes severe chemical burns and can even cause blindness. An unfortunate Virginia teen discovered this first-hand when he suffered third degree burns and was treated at a hospital after he encountered the plant while on a landscaping job. The plant touched Alex Childress as he worked, and by the time he came home and started to take a shower, “the skin on his face was basically peeling away and peeling off,” his father told WTVR, a local television station. Learn more about Mr. Childress' encounter at Time.com.

The sap of giant hogweed, which is a native of the Caucasus Mountains, contains chemicals that when exposed to ultraviolet light cause severe skin irritation, blistering, and potentially blindness. It's hard to believe, but it was brought to the United States as an ornamental plant! This webpage provides information on how to identify giant hogweed, how it causes burns, what to do if you contact it, and how to safely remove it from the landscape. Information about giant hogweed is also available at Texasinvasives.org.

Thankfully, giant hogweed is not found in Texas – yet. Let's keep it that way! Please keep your eyes open for it: it prefers moist, disturbed sites. If you find it, please report it as soon as possible using Texasinvasives.org's Sentinel Pest Network "Report It!" tool online or in its Texas Invasives mobile app (iOS or Android).

Credit: Terry English, USDA APHIS PPQ, Bugwood.org

giant hogweed burn
Credit: Bob Kleinberg

Zebra Mussel Infestation of Lake Travis Is Beginning to Have Impacts

The impact of Lake Travis' recent infestation with zebra mussels (Dreissena polymorpha) is beginning to be felt broadly now. Discovered in Lake Travis just last year, the population has already exploded. Marcos De Jesus, a district biologist for the inland fisheries department for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, said in a Community Impact article that the TPWD's experience with zebra mussel infestations in Texas is that the population grows to its largest in the second and third summer after the mussels are discovered. He said this summer could be the height of the infestation in Lake Travis. “So right now, we’re experiencing the year-after boom,” he said

The explosion in the mussel population in the lake is beginning to cause the typical problems associated with zebra mussel infestations. While ecological impacts will take a longer to document, impacts on people are obvious and will be costly. As a harbinger of impacts on recreational use of the shoreline, a property owner reported to Texasinvasives.org that her son cut his foot on the sharp shells of zebra mussels along the shore. Meanwhile, boaters and marina owners are beginning to have to consider the costs of cleaning the bivalve off their boats and marina equipment. Lower Colorado River Authority staff have been cleaning, draining and drying their agency’s boats and equipment when moving from one lake to another and are encouraging boaters to do the same, as required by law

The Community Impact article also describes how four water supply entities are planning to deal with the infestation. They include Austin Water, the Village of Briarcliff, Water Control Improvement District 17, and West Travis County Public Utility District. According to the article, Marcos De Jesus, a district biologist for the inland fisheries department for the TPWD, said, "Zebra mussels can be detrimental to a city’s water supply by colonizing the insides of water pipes and restricting the flow of water… [W]ith no way to rid the lakes of the species, he said treating pipes for the mussels will become a regular cost of pulling water from the lake." He noted that these costs will cause water bills to increase as they are passed on to their customers.

zebra mussels
Credit: Amy Benson, U.S. Geological Survey

Zebra mussels from Lake Travis
Zebra mussels from Lake Travis. Jill Campbell, Sentinel Pest Network report.

Invasive Spotlight:
Red Lionfish
(Pterois volitans)

The red lionfish, Pterois volitans, is a strikingly beautiful but venomous fish indigenous to the west Pacific. A relatively large fish, it can grow to between 12 and 18 inches long. This almond-shaped fish is covered in red/maroon/brown and white zebra striping, and has long, elaborate fins and venomous spines.

Red lionfish have the potential to devastate local reef communities due to their aggressiveness, wide selection of potential prey items, lack of known predators, high fecundity (2 million eggs per female per year!), as well as their ability to spawn throughout the year in the right climate.

They are superior competitors of the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico coral reef systems, and have made their way up the Atlantic coast to Cape Cod and along the Gulf Coast. They have no known predators in these waters. This map from the USGS Non-indigenous Aquatic Species website illustrates their spread since first found in Florida in the 1980s.

They were likely released by owner(s) who no longer wanted to keep them in their aquairum. Releasing lionfish and other aquarium fish, animals and plants can cause incredible destruction. Find out more here and here.

Although their venomous spines make them dangerous to catch, red lionfish can be speared, handled and prepared carefully, and then eaten. Instructions on how to prepare lionfish safely can be found online. In Texas, lionfish may be taken at any time as long as the fisherperson has a valid fishing license.

For a quick summary of the basics on lionfish, see REEF's "Lionfish Quick Facts" here.

Because of its potential negative impacts in Texas coastal waters, the lionfish is a Report It! species as part of the Sentinel Pest Network, a component of Texasinvasives.org. If you believe you have found a lionfish, please report this species.

Follow this link to learn more about the red lionfish.

Red lionfish

Credit: NOAA Archives

More News

Webinar: WGA Chair Hawaii Gov. David Ige Announces Biosecurity and Invasive Species Initiative
Western Governors' Association Chair and Hawaii Gov. David Ige highlighted the importance of invasive species management in the West and announced the locations of regional workshops as part of his Chairman's Initiative during a webinar July 12, 2018. Leaders in invasive species data management also discussed WGA's Invasive Species Data Management Protocol, a new effort to improve the interagency exchange of invasive species occurrence data in the West. Learn more at westgov.org.

Citizen Scientists Are Helping Air Potato Beetle Take a Bite Out of a Major Weed Pest
A citizen science program in Florida is keeping track of how successfully the air potato leaf beetle (Lilioceris cheni) is keeping air potato (Dioscorea bulbifera) in check. [The program is expanding into Texas. Contact Texasinvasives.org if you'd like to be involved.] Learn more at ipmsouth.com.

Asian Hornet Nests Found by Radio-Tracking
Amazingly, radiotagging technology has advanced to the point where electronic radio tags are small enough to be used to track invasive Asian hornets (Vespa velutina). Learn more at sciencedaily.org.

Eradicate Rats to Bolster Coral Reefs
New research has confirmed that invasive rats (Rattus norvegicus) decimate seabird populations, with previously unrecognized consequences for the extensive coral reefs that encircle and protect these islands. Learn more at sciencedaily.org.


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, September 15, 2018
Location: Discovery Center, 430 Riverside Dr. (San Marcos, TX)
Contact: Conrad Chappell

Saturday, September 22, 2018
Location: AgriLife Extension Office, 607 North Vandeveer Street #100 (Burnet, TX)
Contact: Susan Montgomery

Friday, October 12, 2018
Location: Mission Branch Library, 3134 Roosevelt Avenue (San Antonio, TX)
Contact: Rachel Cywinski

Sentinel Pest Network Workshop
Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Location: Mission Branch Library, 3134 Roosevelt Avenue (San Antonio, TX)
Contact: Rachel Cywinski

Sentinel Pest Network Workshop
Sunday, October 21, 2018

Location: Mission Branch Library, 3134 Roosevelt Avenue (San Antonio, TX)
Contact: Rachel Cywinski

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