November 2016
Release of Giant Reed Scale Proceeds at UT's Brackenridge Field Laboratory

This month, as part of the United States Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service (ARS) research program on the biological control of giant reed (Arundo donax), personnel released the arundo scale (Rhizaspidiotus donacis) at the University of Texas' Brackenridge Field Laboratory. As a result of their research, USDA-ARS has settled on three insect control agents of giant reed: the arundo gall wasp (Tetramesa romana), the arundo scale, and the arundo leaf miner (Lasioptera donacis). The gall wasp has been released in the Rio Grande area since 2009, and the scale was released in 2011 (ARS is awaiting final approval for release of the leaf miner). The combination of the two insects has led to a 37% decline in above-ground biomass. Research suggests that this is enough of a decline in the cane to allow native species to begin to recolonize the area. This will reduce (and hopefully eventually eliminate) the negative impacts of the cane, which include changes in the ecology of the habitat taken over by the cane, reduction in wildlife habitat, increased populations of the cattle fever tick (Rhipicephalus [formerly Boophilus] annulatus and R. microplus), increased water loss through evapotranspiration, and security issues for the Border Patrol along the Rio Grande.

Research will expand with the release of the scale at the Brackenridge Field Laboratory (BFL) site. Personnel from BFL, ARS and the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center placed cane stems carrying microscopic arundo scale larvae -- affectionately called "crawlers" -- brought from the ARS research facility near Weslaco, TX, into two stands of cane at BFL. The scale's population size and effects on the cane will be monitored and assessed, with an eye to the scale's performance in Central Texas.

Learn more about the ARS research here and here.

BFL scale release

Dr. Rob Plowes placing cane stems with scale larvae on cane at UT-Brackenridge Field Lab. Credit: Hans Landel, Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

BFL scale release

Credit: Hans Landel, Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

Keep an Eye Out for the Pecan Weevil, a New Pest

The Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service is seeking assistance in locating possible pecan weevil (Curculio caryae) infestations in Bexar, Hays, Comal and Travis counties. "The pecan weevil is a serious pest of pecan," said Dr. Larry Stein, AgriLife Extension horticulturist in Uvalde. "Previously, pecan weevil distribution was unknown in Texas until last year when they were found near the Wimberley area in Hays County. Most recently, we had a new pecan weevil identification in Comal County near the Guadalupe River. And there’s a strong possibility of additional infestations within these and other nearby counties."

Signs of pecan weevil infestation include seeing two to four legless white grubs inside the shell, or small, round BB-shaped holes on the outside of the shell. "The adult weevil is typically gray to brown in color and about 3/8 of an inch long," Molly Keck, AgriLife Extension entomologist for Bexar County, said. "The snout of the female is as long as its body while the male’s snout is a little shorter. The weevil larvae are cream colored with reddish heads and when grown can reach a length of ⅗ of an inch." Contact your local AgriLife Extension office if you believe you've found weevils.

Wizzie Brown, AgriLife Extension entomologist, Travis County, suggests how to manage the pecan weevil, including how to monitor for it and how to control it. Read this article for more information.

pecan weevil female & male

Credit: William Reid, Kansas State University


Credit: Texas Agricultural Extension Service

Where do you get your firewood?

The Southern Regional Extension Forestry program is conducting a survey about people’s awareness of forest and tree health issues. By answering several questions about these issues, your firewood use habits, and where you’ve recently learned about the issues, program staff hopes to gain insight as to how to effectively engage with the public and how to improve in the future.

This four-page survey should only take 10 minutes. All answers will be kept completely confidential. Your participation is greatly appreciated.

Link to survey.


Invasive Spotlight:
Chinaberry Tree
(Melia azedarach)

Chinaberry outcompetes native vegetation due to its high relative resistance to insects and pathogens. Its leaf litter raises soil pH, thus altering soil conditions for native plants and seed germination. It spreads easily as its seeds are bird-dispersed. It will also sprout from its roots, making it difficult to control without herbicide.

Chinaberry can be easily recognized by its alternate lacy dark-green doubly-compound leaves (can be triply-compound) with serrate leaflets that have a musky odor. The leaves are 1 to 2 feet (0.3-0.6 m) long and 9 to 16 inches (20-41 cm) wide. Chinaberry is a deciduous tree that can grow up to 50 feet (15 m) high and 2 feet (60 cm) in diameter. It produces clusters of lavender flowers in spring. Its yellow berries are poisonous, and persist on the tree into winter, making it easy to spot. The berries might be confused with soapberry fruit, but the latter become translucent while Chinaberry fruit do not.

Chinaberry is on the Texas Department of Agriculture list of noxious plants. It cannot be sold in, moved about, or imported into Texas.

Follow this link for more information on the Chinaberry tree.


Credit: John Huecksteadt, Invaders of Texas


Credit: Invaders of Texas

More News

APHIS Removes the Mexican Fruit Fly Quarantine in the San Ygnacio Area of Zapata County, Texas
Effective October 28, 2016, the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) removed the Mexican fruit fly (Mexfly) (Anastrepha ludens) quarantine in the San Ygnacio area of Zapata County, Texas. Learn more.

2017 Imported Fire Ant and Invasive Ant Conference is May 16-18
The 2017 Imported Fire Ant and Invasive Ant Conference will be held May 16-18, 2017 in Mobile AL. The meeting starts with an evening reception on Tuesday May 16. There will be a 2-hour meeting of the Ant Pests eXtension CoP immediately following the conference on the afternoon of May 18. Please bookmark this site so it will be handy: Invasive ant conference.

A New Virus Found in Invasive Wasp
A recent study discovered a newly identified virus in the invasive wasp Vespula pensylvanica. The research also warns that transmission of these kinds of viruses, especially from invasive species that can spread viruses to new locations, is a threat to pollinator health worldwide. Read more at

Genomic Tools to Combat the Spread of the Invasive Asian Longhorned Beetle
The Asian longhorned beetle (Anoplophora glabripennis) has successfully invaded North America and Europe where it infests maple, birch, willow, elm, and poplar trees. An international team of scientists report on the sequencing, annotation, and comparative exploration of this beetle's genome in an effort to develop novel tools to combat its spread and better understand the biology of invasive wood-boring pests. Read more at

Geneticists on Cutting Edge of Effort to Save Ash Trees
A green ash tree (Fraxinus pennsylvanica) plantation established at Pennsylvania State University in 1978 is serendipitously contributing to understanding how immunity to the emerald ash borer (EAB) (Agrilus planipennis) functions. While the vast majority of the ash trees planted have succumbed to EAB, a few have not, and they are being studied to investigate the genetics of immunity. Read more at

Australian Reptile Black Market a Likely Source of Invasive Animals
An Australian study has found that the illegal reptile trade has the potential of introducing non-native species into the wild. The researchers developed a model that suggests that 18% of the species that have been confiscated by the Victorian Government, including venomous species, are likely to become established if released, either on purpose or accidentally. Read more at

What Allowed Ragweed to Spread?
A Norwegian researcher has analyzed soil samples from different soil strata throughout North America to look for correlations between ragweed (Ambrosia artemisiifolia) occurrence at different times and where settlers cleared new land. He is also performing genetic studies of North American and European ragweed populations, and taken together he is hoping these studies will allow him to determine why ragweed spreads so easily. Learn more at

Denial of Invasive Species Threat Worries Scientists
Scientists believe a new battlefront is opening in science denialism and this time the target is the science of invasive alien species and the fight to protect some of the world's rarest species and most unique ecosystems. This is worrisome not only to scientists but to those of us who are fighting to keep invasives in check. Learn more at

Non-native insects change more than native host plant survival
Research on Guam demonstrates how herbivory by non-native insects not only damages the native cycad (Cycas micronesica), but also causes the cycads to alter their leaf chemistry, which subsequently changes soil chemistry and leaf litter decomposition rates, and thus the soil community. Learn more at


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 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 designed to help organize and track volunteer-based eradication efforts.

Upcoming Workshops:

Stay tuned!

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