May 2021
Whats The Buzz?

Genetically modified mosquitoes have been released for the first time in the U.S. The first 12-week phase placed blue-and-white boxes containing about 12,000 GM Aedes aegypti male mosquito eggs, developed by a company called Oxitec, in six small areas around the Florida Keys. When water is added to the box, the mosquitoes hatch, mature, and enter the environment. The experiment tests the method for suppressing populations of invasive Ae. aegypti mosquitoes, which can carry diseases such as chikungunya, dengue, yellow fever, and Zika. The genetically modified mosquitoes carry two genes: a fluorescent marker gene, and a self-limiting gene. A fluorescent marker gene glows under a special red light, and allows researchers to identify GM mosquitoes from wild mosquitoes. The self-limiting gene prevents female mosquito offspring from surviving to adulthood. GM male mosquito eggs that carry the self-limiting gene are released into an area, hatched, and develop into the adult stage. The GM males outnumber the wild males, which increases their likelihood of mating. The genes are passed on to the male offspring, and the female offspring die in the early larval stage. As a result, the population of Ae. aegypti in the area decreases.

The pilot period in the Florida Keys will last three months, and will result in the release of approximately 144,000 male mosquitoes. If successful, up to 20 million more male mosquitoes could be released in the Florida Keys during the height of the mosquito season this year as an alternative to insecticide. Researchers will use capture devices to trap mosquitoes for study to monitor the trials. They will also measure how far the male mosquitoes travel from the boxes, how long they live, how effectively they decrease the wild female population, and will insure all the females with the gene are dying. According to the CDC, the EPA has also authorized use of genetically modified Ae. aegypti mosquitoes for release in counties in Texas.

Fun Facts about mosquitoes: Only female mosquitoes ‘bite’. They need the blood meal to produce eggs. The male mosquitoes feed on nectar. You can tell the difference between a male and a female by the antennae. Female antennae are straight and thin, while males are bristly on both sides like feathers.

Aedes aegypti
Aedes aegypti. Credit: Muhammad Mahdi Karim CC: GFDL 1.2

Oxitec 2021 mosquito box
“Oxitec has placed boxes of its mosquito eggs in undisclosed locations in the Florida Keys to protect against vandalism.” Credit: Oxitec 2021

Mosquito gender
Image indicating difference between male vs. female mosqitoes. Note antennae.


That’s an Attractive Silhouette

Invasive spotted lanternflies (SLF, Lycorma delicatula) are visually drawn to lone vertical objects, such as utility poles. Researchers were able to observe a large accumulation of several hundred flight- dispersing SLFs on and around a utility pole in the middle of a vineyard. They observed that lanternflies that flew within 10 feet of the utility pole, or an object with a strong vertical silhouette, acted as a strong visual stimulus causing the adult to turn toward it and land. Some even remained on the pole for hours. A large portion of the SLFs that eventually dispersed were inevitably drawn back in by their visual attraction to the pole, effectively trapping them on the pole for long periods of time. Many that landed toward the bottom would work their way to the top. In conjunction with previous studies, the researchers concluded that this behavior is due to the SLF efforts to find new sources of food and/or find a mate by crawling to the top of the highest/nearest vertical surface and launch themselves off of it. This allows the lanternflies to fly further than they could by launching from the ground, as they do not generate much lift, only thrust. Knowing that SLF are drawn to lone vertical objects, such as utility poles, could be valuable in predicting where the invasive lanternflies might be heading, or could be used by field scouts to document populations/presence.

Read the research: Baker et al. 2021

Spotted lantern flys moving toward top of telephone pole
Photo of a telephone pole showing L. delicatula adults walking up toward the top of the pole where they have accumulated (solid arrow) before trying to launch themselves into flight from the pole. Other adults in flight can be seen (dashed arrows) approaching the pole from the environment Credit: Baker et al. 2021.

Something Has Gone A-Foul

Clavelina oblonga is an invasive, soft-bodies, marine fouling species that reduces diversity in communities it invades, and interferes with community succession (how the community recovers following a natural disaster). Marine fouling species are tunicates or invertebrate filter-feeding organisms, like barnacles or mussels, that settle on hard substrates, like docks, or the hulls of ships. Marine fouling environments are different from terrestrial ecosystems because different species of larvae are present at different times of the year, so what the ecosystem looks like after a disturbance is dictated by when it occurs. Given the recent introduction and spread of C. oblonga along the North Carolina coast in 2015, researchers wanted to see how this invasive species would affect succession in a fouling environment. During an experiment, researchers submerged terra cotta plates every four weeks for over a year and observed the marine communities that settled on them. Over the course of the study, many different fouling species settled on the plates, but in each case when C. oblonga settles, they rapidly crowded out the other species. The study period even included an unusually cold winter and a hurricane, both of which cleared C. oblonga from the plates, only to have them regrow, outcompeting all other fouling communities. It seems that C. oblonga has no real natural predators.

Clavelina oblonga in Panama Bocas Del Toro Research Station Marina CC0 1.0
Communities of Clavelina oblonga growing on a structure, Bocas Del Toro Research Station Marina, Panama. CC0 1.0
 Clavelina oblonga in Panama Bocas Del Toro Research Station Marina CC0 1.0 
Clavelina oblonga, Bocas Del Toro Research Station Marina, Panama. CC0 1.0

Are You Eating My Crops? 1 of 12

The silver Y moth (Autographa gamma) is a migratory species, but in areas where it is unable to overwinter severe infestations are known to occur, making it a potential crop pest, and the first in our new 12 month series called ‘Are you eating my crops?’. Individual pests chosen for this series have not yet been reported in Texas, but are on the ‘Watch List’ due to their high level of pest importance. During this series we will cover several different crop pests, what to look for, what they look like, and where you can find more information about them. If you ever have question or concerns regarding the headliner of this section, feel free to email

The young larvae of silver Y moths feed on the foliage of their host plants and tend to “skeletonize” the leaves, leaving plants with a brownish appearance. Older caterpillars eat the whole leaf, starting from the edge and working in toward the midrib until its entirety is consumed. Larvae can scrape the skin off of fruit, like grapes or tomatoes, and feed on the contents within. The larvae are polyphagous and are found on many different hosts, some of which are: corn, cereals, grasses, fiber crops, Brassica spp. (like cabbage), and other vegetables, including beet, peppers, and lettuce. The larvae feed at night, spending the daylight hours concealed, pressed to the underside of leaves. Female silver Y moths take nectar from flowers, and can often be seen feeding during the day or early evening. Females can lay from 500 to 1,000 whitish eggs in a single batch or in small batches, which they attach to the low-growing plants.

The silver Y moth forewings are marbled silvery gray, to brown, to velvety black, with a distinct white lowercase “y” in the center. The hind wing is light brown with a dark brown marginal border. The wingspan is about 36 to 40 mm. The larval caterpillars range from bright green to dark olive green, with a dark green dorsal line edged with white, and a yellow spiracular line edged with green. They only have three pairs of prolegs: two pairs on abdominal segments 5 and 6 and one pain on the last anal segment. The silver Y moth pupates on the lower leaf surface or within the first centimeter of soil.

To read more about the silver Y moth, see the USDA fact sheet.

Silver y Moth. Julieta Brambila. USDA APHIS PPQ
Adult Silver Y moth (Autographa gamma). Note characteristic "y" on forwings. Credit: Julieta Brambila, USDA APHIS PPQ
Silver y Moth larva Paolo Mazzei
Silver Y moth larva. Note the white spiracular line edged in green that runs laterally down the body of the caterpillar. Credit: Paolo Mazzei

Play Clean Go Awareness Week

The PlayCleanGo® Stop Invasive Species in Your Tracks® campaign works tirelessly to stop the detrimental impact of invasive species to North America’s lands and waters. Through partnerships with other environmental and recreational organizations, clear messaging, and community-based social outreach, awareness is being raised as to how and why thousands of invasive species are spread every year. To stop the spread, PlayCleanGo provides easy, actionable information to help individuals enjoy our beautiful natural resources responsibly.

3rd Annual PlayCleanGo Awareness Week: June 5-12

More information and resources at


play clean go

Become a certified invasive species detector

Come participate in the Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) Detectors Program course that is open for registration and fully online. The AIS Detectors certification is an introduction to aquatic invasive species science, identification, and surveillance. Participants learn how to report invasive species to government officials, best practices for preventing the spread of AIS, relevant rules and regulations, and how to search for AIS on their own. The AIS Detectors Program at the University of Minnesota is jointly supported by the Minnesota Aquatic Invasive Species Research Center and University of Minnesota Extension. Scholarship opportunities are available.

For more information and to register, click HERE.

AIS detector

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.

All live webinars are open to the public. Recorded webinars are available to members of NAISMA.

NAISMA 2020 Webinar Schedule:

  • June 16, 1pm- Healthy Trees, Healthy Cities. REGISTER.
  • July 21, 1pm- Best Management Practices for Pesticide Applications. REGISTER.
  • August 18, 1pm- Racial Equity & Environmentalism. REGISTER.
  • September 15, 1pm- Flowering Rush Biology, Management, and Control.REGISTER.


USGS' Comprehensive List of Non-Native Species Established in Three Major Regions of the U.S.

A comprehensive list of non-native species established in three major regions of the United States: Version 3.0. A compilation and analysis of authoritative assertions of the nonindigenous established status of taxa in Alaska, Hawaii, and the contiguous United States of America.

Version 3.0 of the non-native species list, as of 2020-09-15, contains 13,391 records and 11,478 unique names: 537 taxa for Alaska, 5,996 taxa for Hawaii, and 6,818 taxa for the conterminous United States. It is taxonomically refined, has tighter control of establishment status and non-native status, and includes approximate dates of introduction for 28% of its records.


Invasive Spotlight:

(Imperata cylindrica)

Cogongrass (Imperata cylinrica) is a perennial, rhizomatous grass that grows from approximately 2 to 4 feet in height and about an inch wide. Each blade has a prominent white midrib and ends in a sharp point. Leaf margins are finely toothed and are embedded with silica crystals. The upper surface of the leaf blade is hairy near the base, but usually hairless near the undersurface. The flowers are arranged in a silvery, cylindrical structure about 3-11 inches long and 1 1/2 inches wide.

When introduced to a disturbed ecosystem, Cogongrass can form a dense mat of thatch and leaves that makes it nearly impossible for other plants to coexist. Large infestations of cogongrass can alter the normal fire regime of a fire-driven ecosystem by causing more frequent and intense fires that injure or destroy native plants. This grass is highly flammable and a severe fire hazard, burning extremely hot, especially in winter. Cogongrass displaces a large variety of native plant species that are used by native animals for shelter and food. Some ground-nesting species are also known to be displaced due to the dense cover that cogongrass creates.

For more information about cogongrass, click here.

If you believe you have identified a suspected black velvet leatherleaf slug, please take a picture and REPORT IT! to

Field of Cogongrass. Charles T. Bryson. USDA Agricultural Research Services
Field of Cogongrass. Credit: Charles T. Bryson, USDA Agricultural Research Services
Cogongrass. Chris Evans. U of Illinois
Structures of Cogongrass. Note (from top to bottow): leaves with prominent white midrib, flower and seedhead, overlapping leaf sheaths, stem, and sharp-tipped rhizomes. Credit: Chris Evans, University of Illinois

New: Opportunities To Get Involved
Looking for participants for the following surveys: 

Citrus Greening Workshops

We need your help to safeguard Texas Citrus, and it can start in your backyard!

TISI is offering educational workshops focused on the Asian citrus psyllid and the pathogen Citrus Greening. The Asian citrus psyllid and the Citrus Greening pathogen is threatening citrus in multiple Texas counties, and we need you help to monitor the spread. The workshop will highlight what you need to look out for, address USDA-APHIS Citrus Quarantines, and offer diagnostic services if you suspect your backyard citrus has either the psyllid pest or Citrus Greening pathogen. This includes providing trapping materials, assisting with management strategies, and more.

Please contact so we can schedule a workshop (virtual or in-person) for you or your group this year!

Aquarium Watch: Looking for Prohibited Invasive Aquatic Species

Please help and natural habitats by looking for 14 prohibited invasive aquatic species being sold in your local aquarium store. With just one photo you can assist us in finding and documenting which stores are selling prohibited species. will contact the appropriate Texas institutions to remove the species for sale.

If you would like more information please email and mention you want to assist with our Aquarium Watch.

Field Crop Pest Survey

Texas Research Institute for Environmental Studies (TRIES) is looking for farmers with corn, rice, or small grain (wheat, oats, etc.) fields who would like to participate in a Field Crop Pest Survey. By participating, you would be allowing a TRIES field biologist to come place a non-invasive USDA trap at the edge of your field and check it every few weeks. The traps will be monitored for a variety of invasive crop pests. Your participation would be beneficial to yourself as well as the local farmers throughout your county. If you live in one of the following counties and are interested in participating, or you would like some more information, please contact Limited participation slots available. Beyond that, some fees may apply.

Counties of interest: Johnson, Ellis, Navarro, McLennan, Limestone, Bell, Falls, Milam, Williamson, Fayette, Bastrop, Colorado, Wharton.

Soil Nematode Survey

Texas Research Institute for Environmental Studies (TRIES) is looking for farmers with corn, tomato, potato, or small grain (wheat, oats) fields who would like to participate in a Soil Nematode Survey if they are in the following counties: Navarro, Walker, Limestone, Williamson, Bastrop, Falls, Johnson, and McLennan. By participating you would be allowing a TRIES field biologist to come and take a few soil samples around the root systems of your crops. There are a number of soil nematode that can eat the root system, or be detrimental to crops. The soil samples will be brought back to the Animal and Plant Diagnostic Lab to be analyzed. If you live in one the above-mentioned counties and are interested in participating, or you would like some more information, please contact Limited participation slots available. Beyond that, some fees may apply.

Citrus greening. JM Bove
Leaf mottle on grapefruit, a characteristic symptom caused by citrus greening bacterium but also seen on trees infected by Spiroplasma citri. Credit: J.M. Bove.

Armorded catfish. Photographer United States Geological Survey
Armored catfish (Hypostomus plecostomus). Credit: United States Geological Survey.

bucket trap. Whitney Cranshaw. Colorado State
Example of a bucket trap. Credit: Whitney Cranshaw. Colorado State. 

Potato cyst nematode. Christopher Hogger
Example of Potato cyst nematode. Credit: Christopher Hogger


More News

Quantifying the Level of Pollution in Marinas
An interdisciplinary group of Spanish scientists have published the results of their pioneering research detailing the sediments in Andalusia's marinas, Spain, and have proposed a new index, the MEPI (Marinas Environmental Pollution Index), to quantify the level of contamination in these ports. They explain how things including invasive species number and abundance can affect the index.

Complete Genome of The Raccoon Dog
A study has for the first time assembled and annotated the complete genome of the invasive raccoon dog (Nyctereutes procyonoides), a species originating in East Asia but has since been introduced into Europe. The work will provide a reference for future evolutionary, ecological, carnivore-based studies that involve gene-disease association and chromosome architecture.

Revealed: The Fungus Attacking Australian Native Plants
The invasive fungus myrtle rust (Austropuccinia psidii) has driven at least three native plants to extinction, but researchers from Australia and New Zealand hope that sequencing the entire genome can help the native plants fight back.

DEEP Warns About New Invasive Species of Crab in Local Riverbanks
The Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection has put out an alert about the invasive Chinese mitten crab (Eriocheir sinensis) that is potentially destructive to riverbanks. (Video).

'Alien' Plants Could Pose Risk to Fruit Bats
Led by the University of Sydney, a scientific team has analyzed the nutritional content of Christmas Island flying foxes' (Pteropus natalis) diets and found that introduced plant species do not provide a balanced meal.

Florida Introduces ‘Tag Your Reptile Day’!
Florida is banning the practice of keeping invasive reptiles like iguanas and tegus as pets, but the Fish and Wildlife Commission is partnering with zoos and veterinarians across the state to assist owners of tegus and green iguanas by offering free Tag Your Reptile Day events at multiple locations.

The Ants, Bees, and Wasps of Canada, Alaska, and Greenland: A Checklist of 9250 Species
Knowing what species live where is critical to many fields of study, such as conservation biology and environmental monitoring. This is also how researchers can identify present or potential invasive and non-native pest species.

Bubble Curtain at Lake Tahoe's Elk Point Protects Against Aquatic Weeds
The Tahoe Resource Conservation District and Marine Taxonomic Services installed perforated air hoses along the bottom of the channel of the marina to create a bubble curtain that will keep out invasive plants.


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

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, June 5, 2021 (9:00am-11:00am)
With: The Woodlands Township Environmental Services Department (Sponsored by TISI, Woodlands Water Agency, The Woodlands GREEN, and HEB).
Location: Virtual
Contact: Terrilyn McArthur

“Attend this online class to learn about aquatic invasive plants, how to manage those species by hand removal, and how to report invasives observations into the Texas Invasive Species Institute database.” Facebook link: here

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