November 2020
Canine Egg Hunters

Penn Vet Working Dog Center at Pennsylvania State University- School of Veterinary Medicine started a program that will train dogs to sniff out the spotted lanternfly (Lycorma delicatula; SLF) egg masses as part of the $7.3 million grant award late last year through the Department of Agriculture. This grant will support a four-year integrative, multi-institutional initiative aimed at research and the develop strategies to combat the SLF.

The spotted lanternfly is an ecological and agricultural threat. The plant feeding behavior can impact the logging and fruit tree industry, which in Pennsylvania alone grossed approximately $190.5 million. With SLF reports in Pennsylvania up 72% from last year (estimated 63,000 so far this year) the SLF canine surveillance project could not have come at a better time. The three dogs the team decided to start with where already trained, they just needed to teach them to distinguish and locate a new scent, SLF eggs. The training team placed egg cases with scents similar to those that would be encounter in the field, such as different types of bark, plants and other insect eggs. Preliminary results indicated a 95% accuracy rate of identifying target scents, and a 93% accuracy rate of ignoring nontarget scents. Currently the dogs are only trained to locate egg masses, but the program may soon extend to include hatched eggs and adult SLF.

Canine surveillance could allow for early egg mass detection while eggs are overwintering. Adults lay eggs during the cooler fall seasons before they die, eggs hatch in early spring and the life cycle starts again. Locating and removing the egg masses while they overwinter is the most opportune time to gain control over further spread. Egg masses can be easily removed and destroyed.

This month, an 18-month-old German Shepherd named Lucky will be employed as the state’s first SLF sent detection dog by the Department of Agriculture, after starting the training program as a puppy. She will help inspect businesses that could be carrying SLF egg-covered materials out of state, such as lumber, greenhouses and nurseries.

Detection canines are being trained and deployed all over the U.S. and play a vital role in the conservation efforts against invasive species. There are a number of different programs to train canines to sniff out nonindigenous plant/animal, aquatic/terrestrial species. Read more here.

Read more about SLF in 'Invasive Spotlight Article' below.

SLF canine detection training
SLF canine detection training 2
Canine trainees going through different parts of SLF (Lycorma delicatula) egg detection training course. Image credits: CBS Philadelphia
   SLF egg masses under tree bark   
 SLF egg masses under tree bark. Image credits: Emelie Swackhamer, Penn State University,


Is the ‘Gittings Trap’ Getting the Job Done?

A published peer-reviewed article, Harris et. al (2020), presents a new trap available for removing invasive Indo-Pacific lionfish (Pterois volitans and P. miles) from the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean. Pacific lionfish have no natural predators, and their aggressive appetites and rapid reproductive abilities can completely decimate local reef communities leading to adverse ecological effects. Commercial fishing methods are difficult to use on lionfish because they live close to reefs and other structures. Spearfishing is currently the most effective method of lionfish removal with a lionfish removal rate of 86%. However, divers don't typically go below 100-120 feet where the densest populations of lionfish are often found.

The collapsible non-containment trap, or ‘Gittings trap’, was named after Steve Gittings, chief scientist at NOAA’s National Marine Sanctuaries. The trap consists of a circular metal or PVC frame with netting attached to it. The trap has hinges that allows the frame to open and close like a clam shell when a cord is pulled. A structure which resembles a reef to the lionfish, typically a lattice fence, is placed in the middle of the frame.

Pros: No expensive robotics or mechanisms. Designed with inexpensive materials. Easily replicated. The trap has a minimal impact on the local fish community, as it attracts 10x more lionfish than other fish. Cons: 68% deployment success rate, meaning when it reaches the ocean floor it doesn’t always open successfully. 56% lionfish escape rate upon trap retrieval. Too heavy and large for one person to move alone. The Gittings trap has an overall lionfish removal rate of 12-26%. Other tested lionfish removal technology (ex: modified sea bass fish traps, lobster traps, and remote operated spearfishing drones) have a removal rate < 10%.

The traps are not ready for commercial fisherman, but there is potential in depths beyond those of spearfisherman. The journal article mentions design modifications that could increase efficacy and reduce production cost but requires additional research. The collective thought seems to be that lionfish are delicious. With these traps more lionfish can be brought in, creating more of a market, which will help keep the invasive species population down. The current trap data reflect little impact on the lionfish population, but the traps are in their early days.

If you believe you have identified a suspected Pacific/Red Lionfish, please REPORT IT! here.

Gittings trap deployment
Gittings lionfish trap: Traps are designed to A) descend closed B) open upon seafloor contact. C) traps remain open during deployment then close when the trap is ascended during retrieval. Credit: Figure form Harris et al (2020).

What’s the Word? TPW Commission Voted to Adopt Exotic Aquatic Species Rule Changes!

At a meeting earlier this month, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission voted to adopt proposed exotic aquatic species rule changes that would provide additional flexibility to the regulated community regarding possession and aquaculture and address threats posed to aquatic ecosystems by exotic aquatic species. The revised rules will go into effect on January 11, 2021.

Some of the adopted rule changes involve new allowances and requirements for pond stocking in order to accommodate change in business practices and address potential threats related to tilapia and triploid grass carp (Ctenopharyngodon idella), regulated species allowed to be stocked in private ponds. Tilapia have already been introduced into some Texas lakes and rivers and the proposed rules seek to prevent further escapes in a designated ‘conservation zone’ by requiring pond approval prior to stocking tilapia. Due to hybridization and difficulty distinguishing between tilapias in aquaculture four species will now be allowed: Blue (Oreochromis aureus), Nile (O. niloticus), Mozambique (O. mossambicus; currently allowed), and Wami (O. urolepis). Pond stocking sellers that buy and sell tilapia and triploid grass carp, rather than culture, can now obtain a permit without having an aquaculture facility.

Other adopted rules focused on creating much-needed allowances for the removal and disposal of zebra mussels (Dreissena polymorpha), apple snails (Pomacea maculata), and exotic aquatic plants from around infrastructure, docks, pumps, and shorelines on public and private waterfront properties. Landowners will be allowed to possess and transport these species for the purpose of disposal provided all removed material is securely contained in black plastic bags (which accumulate heat that kills the organisms), or plant material is left to desiccate/decay on the property before disposal. Exotic vegetation removal permits are no longer required for prohibited plant removal. Nuisance aquatic vegetation treatment proposals are still required for removing prohibited exotic aquatic plants from public waters.

The commission added Crested Floating Heart (Nymphoides cristata), Yellow Floating Heart (N. peltata), Golden mussel, (Limnoperna fortunei), New Zealand mudsnail, (Potamopyrgus antipodarum), Amur sleeper (Perccottus glenii), European perch (Perca fluviatilis), Stone Moroko (Pseudorasbora parva), and Wels catfish (Silurus glanis) to the list of prohibited Exotic Harmful or Potentially Harmful Fish, Shellfish, and Aquatic Plants.

To explore the rule changes: Nov. 10 TPW Commission Meeting. To read why these rule changes are important: follow up from October iWire.

 Image credits: Kylee N Kleiner, TRIES
tilapia in water
Tilapia (Oreochromis) in stock pond. Credit: 1CzPhoto.

hydrilla (Hydrilla verticillata)- infestation
Hydrilla (Hydrilla verticillata) infestation on private waterfront property. Credit: James R. Allison, Georgia Department of Natural Resources,

Hurricanes Help Spread the Nuisance

Storms may be aiding in the distribution of invasive and nonindigenous (non-native) aquatic plants and animals. Studies show that some nuisance species could benefit from storms more than others as high winds blow them into new territories, raising flood waters move them inland, the creation of freshwater bridges move them along coastal regions, and subsequent draining displaces them from one water shed to the next.

The USGS Nonindigenous Aquatic Species (NAS) program, and the Advanced Applications team has developed a mapping program that will help track and manage potential spread of aquatic species due to flooding events: the Flood and Storm Transport (FaST). The NAS FaST maps are created with accumulated flood data associated with storm events in the Atlantic Ocean and known locations of established or possibly established native and nonindigenous species from the NAS database, aided by sighting reports.

Storm surge and rainfall associated flooding events are the primary factors that contribute to the spread of nonindigenous aquatic species into new areas. Because of this, the FaST maps and data queries presents distribution according to ‘drainage’ zones, instead of by counties. This allows aquatic species location data to correlate directly with natural drainage systems within the flood zone. The maps include a list of species present or at risk of being introduction from surrounding drainages. For example, the FaST Hurricane Delta map shows how invasive species like the Cuban tree frog (Osteopilus septentrionalis) and Asian clam (Corbicula fluminea) were spread to New Orleans and eastern Texas through flooding and watershed (see map). The FaST Hurricane Harvey map shows how nonindigenous species like the Redbreast Sunfish (Lepomis auratus) and alligatorweed (Alternanthera philoxeroides) projections differed between pre- and post- storm observations (see map).

The FaST mapping system does not include nonaquatic invasive plant/animal spread by flooding events or spread caused by wind related storm events. However, as hurricanes are projected to become more frequent and intense due to climate change, NAS hopes this data can be used as a tool that will aid in early detection and rapid response efforts, or to develop a watchlist of potential new aquatic species within a watershed. These projections cannot predict accidental introduction associated with exotic pets. Experts request exotic pet owners be responsible and mindful of approaching storms. Please do not release exotic pets into the wild or dump aquariums, as these actions only add to the growing invasive species problem.

 Hurricane Delta Asian clam 
NAS FaSt map of Hurricane Delta projected spread of Asian clam (Corbicula fluminea) due to flooding events. Credit: USGS NAS

Hurrican Harvey FaST map- hyacinth
NAS FaSt map of Hurricane Harvey projected spread of floating water hyacinth (Pontederia crassipes) due to flooding events. Credit: USGS NAS

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:

  • December 16, 1pm- The Invasive Species Data Mobilization Campaign - REGISTER


Minnesota Aquatic Invasive Species Research Center

MAISR has allowed access to all 2020 Research and Management Showcase presentation recordings. The videos are also curated into a playlist on their YouTube channel. Aquatic invasive species (AIS) videos with applicable information listed below:

  • Engineered Genetic Incompatibility (EGI): Biocontrol of carp and other invasive species via genetic engineering; Presented by Sam Erickson and moderated by Dr. Michael Smanski.
  • Carp social behaviors and new removal strategies; Presented by Dr. Przemek Bajer and moderated by Kristin Loobeek.
  • The valuation of carp removal from watershed districts; Presented by Dr. Lucy Levers.
  • Quantifying the risk of pathogen introduction via the live baitfish pathway; Presented by Meg McEachran and moderated by Dr. Nicholas Phelps.
  • Exploring whether native pathogens can be used to control AIS; Presented by Isaiah Tolo and Meg McEachran, moderated by Dr. Nicholas Phelps.
  • New, eco-friendly solutions to mitigate the spread of AIS; Presented by Dr. Mikael Elias and moderated by Nathan Hoekstra.
  • A novel technology for eDNA collection and concentration; Presented by Akli Zarouri and Hamada Aboubakr, moderated by Dr. Abdennour Abbas.

MAISR logo

Invasive Spotlight:
Spotted Lanternfly
(Lycorma delicatula)

The spotted lanternfly (SLF) has been a growing concern to the agricultural community since its introduction in 2014. It feeds on economically important plants, which could lead to devastating losses in logging, fruit tree, and grape industries. It has 70 documented host plants, 25 of which grow in the U.S. such as: grape vines, apples, birch, cherry, lilac, maple, poplar, and stone fruits. The SLF seems to prefer the tree-of-heaven (Ailanthus altissima), an invasive tree present in most of the U.S., and is likely to establish itself wherever the tree-of-heaven is present.

The adult SLF is small (17-27mm) and cryptic, relying mostly on camouflage. The forewings are light brown with black spots, the base color darkens toward the tips of the wing. The hindwings, hidden when the forewings are closed, are bright red with black spots, with a white band separating the red from black tips. Immature lanternflies (nymphs) undergo four developmental stages (instars) that are black with white dots but start to produce red patches as they develop into adults. Adults and nymphs have piercing mouthpart that allow them to feed on the phloem of the plant. This can cause damage to stems/fruits, and leave weeping wounds that fill with sap. Large amounts of “honey dew” (insect waste) will gather at the base of the tree and blacken the soil in areas of infestations. Honey dew can produce mats of fungal mold which can damage the growth of or kill the tree.

SLF lay their eggs in masses, 35-50 eggs a case, multiple cases, then cover them with a brownish-gray waxy secretion. Lanternflies are generalist and will lay their egg masses on almost any smooth surface, such as tree branches, trunks, stones and bushes. Reports of egg mass removals have found them under cars, wooden pallets, in grills, on outdoor furniture, farm equipment and on buildings. Adults die after laying, and eggs hatch in the spring.

SLF has not been reported in Texas. Since the invasive tree-of-heaven and many of the other agriculturally important host plants preferred by this pest are found/grown in Texas, experts are staying vigilant. Efforts are focused on early detection to prevent the spread of the SLF to new locations. Eggs can be removed by scraping egg masses off trees and squished. Sticky traps, surveying, and citizen sighting report methods are currently the most effective lines of defense.

If you believe you have identified a potential spotted lanternfly, please REPORT IT here.

Spottted lanternfly (Lycorma delicatula)
SLF Nymphs
TOP: Adult Spotted lanternfly (Lycorma delicatula). BOTTOM: Different developmental stages of SLF nymphs. Credit: Lawrence Barringer, Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture,
SLF infestation and damage on tree
SLF infestation. Tree exhibiting symptoms: weeping wounds, honey dew, and dark sooty mold. Credit: Emelie Swackhamer, Penn State University,

Changes On The Horizon... Getting Closer
  • As merges with Texas Invasive Species Institute (TISI) there will be some changes to the appearance and overall design of the monthly iWires and website. Although the newsletter is getting a facelift, it will still be emailed and posted monthly, it will provide information on workshops, and it will report on the Texas invasive species news that you have all come to rely on and enjoy. The website will have an updated aesthetic but will still be located at and will provide you all the Invasive Species reporting functions, workshops and resources you need to successfully report and manage invasive species.

    There are many exciting changes on the horizon that will make all of the past work of Texas Invasive and future work of TISI unforgettable, like a streamlined “report it” function, virtual Citizen Scientists trainings and certifications, and a searchable iWire article database with a ‘related articles’ tag function. We will continue to alert you of changes until the site is fully launched.

    **Stay tuned for the date of the "New" website launch.**

More News

Workers Eradicate First Nest of 'Murder Hornets' Found In US, 200 Potential Queens Inside
Agricultural department workers locate and eradicate the first nest of Asian giant hornets (Vespa mandarinia) discovered in the United States (Washington state), after weeks of searching and tracking. Article contains link to video interview with state managing entomologist involved in the location effort.

Decades-Long Effort Revives Ancient Oak Woodland
Vestal Grove in Cook County, Illinois, looks nothing like the over-grown tangle of forest that stood in this part of the preserve 37 years ago. Thanks to the dedicated efforts of a team that focused on removing invasive plants, seeding native plants, and more, the forest resembles its ‘ancient self’ again.

Time for total rethink on the management of alien species
Non-indigenous (non-native) species need to be appreciated for their potential benefits and not just the negative impacts they can have on the environment, according to new research.

Federal Agencies Sign Invasive Mussel Agreement for Western States
Eight federal government agencies have signed a ‘Memorandum of Understanding’ to guide their response and preparedness to invasive zebra mussels (Dreissena polymorpha) and quagga mussels (D. bugensis) in 19 Western states.

Misinformation is Keeping Invasive Destructive Lionfish Around
Miscommunication between scientists and the public could be the cause of spreading misinformation. A new study suggests that the more knowledge one has on the topic of seafood safety, particularly lionfish (Pterois volitans), the more likely one would be interested in eating it.

Invasive fish discovered in Georgia creek
A weather loach (Misgurnus anguillicaudatus) has been found for the first time in a Georgia waterway. It is a nonindigenous eel-like fish popular in aquariums.

International News

New research maps potential global spread of devastating papaya mealybug pest
CABI scientists have mapped the potential global spread of the papaya mealybug (Paracoccus marginatus), including new areas in Africa, Asia and the Americas into which this pest could potentially invade. Suitable conditions for this pest are also present in southern Texas.

Marmosets Trafficked as Pets Now Threaten Native Species in Atlantic Forest
Decades of illegal trafficking have led to the movement of marmosets (Callitrichidae) into the southeastern Atlantic rainforest, where they not only threaten the survival of native and endangered species, but are crossbreeding with native species, producing a hybrid population that could lead to the extinction of the endemic species.

Keyhole Wasps May Threaten Aviation Safety
Invasive keyhole wasps (Pachodynerus nasidens) at the Brisbane Airport, Australia, were responsible for multiple instances of fully blocked replica pitot probes that are used to measure airspeed.

Eradicating Black Rats on Palmyra Atoll Uncovers Eye-Opening Indirect Effects
The black rat (Rattus rattus) was likely a stow away on a US Navy vessel before landing on Palmyra Atoll and taking over the island. The rats dined on everything from seabird eggs to seed but when they were finally eradicated experts were suprised by the indirect effects.

Canadian Company Marketing Dog Food Made from Invasive Asian Carp
A Canadian company has launched a new dog food product that provides pooches with protein while removing an invasive species from North American waterways.

The Invasive Species That Europe Needs to Eradicate Most Urgently Are Identified
An international team of European researchers draw up this list of invasive species based on risk of establishment, spreading and the severity of impact in order to help management centers and administrations to deploy efforts effectively.


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

Citizen Scientists Spotlight
Texas Lionfish Control Unit Knocked Down, But Not Out

The Texas Lionfish Control Unit (TLCU) based out of Pensacola, FL, found themselves a little soggy and misplaced when Hurricane Sally left its projected path and decided to camp out between Pensacola and Mobil, AL.

TLCU is an organization of action, education and research that assists with invasive Indo-Pacific lionfish (Pterois volitans and P. miles) related efforts in Texas and the Gulf of Mexico. Their goal is to get local divers involved, get more divers in the water, and to educate the public about lionfish, and the threat they pose on the native fish/reef communities. TLCU assists scientists and research organizations by collecting data and providing samples. TLCU also offers ‘ecotrips’ where volunteer divers are trained to hunt lionfish.

Southwind Marina, where lionfish hunting trips and research expeditions are launched, was devastated by Hurricane Sally. All the marina offices, docks and cleaning stations were washed away. The Ships store (on-site market/gas station) was pushed 60 feet up shore, and all the gas pumps were destroyed. Fortunately, TLCU was able to evacuate their boats before the storm. The bridge into town was crushed by a crane. Twenty-two barges in the Pensacola Bay broke loose due to heavy surf. Much of Pensacola experienced extensive damage due to high winds (up to 105 mph), tidal surge (12-14 feet), and storm surge flooding (up to 5.6 feet). TLCU headquarters, located in downtown, had over 1.5 feet of water in the offices. All the furniture and much of the equipment was ruined. Hurricane Sally slowed down upon landfall, dumping 24 inches of rainwater over the area for days. With ocean water flooding in and fresh water pouring down, there was nowhere for the water to drain. It was days before water started to recede, and longer still before people had power again.

Eventually, TLCU sloshed through their headquarters to assess the damage and salvage what they could, but the building was out of commission and the marina was gone. The TLCU boat captain offered his garage to store equipment and gear that wasn’t lost or destroyed. The team’s priorities shifted to help their neighbors and friends with downed trees, clear debris, and getting back into their homes. A few weeks later, good ‘ole Captain Andy found a temporary location at the Chico Marina for TLCU, and things were up and running again, minus one soggy headquarters.

Now: TLCU is still recovering and trying to replace what was lost, but they’re back in the water on a limited basis and moved back into their headquarters cooking up big plans for the new year…

If you would like to donate to their recovery, or learn more about TLCU: Home; Donate.

Southwind Marina destroyed
Hurricane Sally aftermath- Southwind Marina destroyed. Credit: Brady Hale.

TLCU successful ecotrip- lionfish catch
TLCU successful ecotrip on boat
Some TLCU members and team of volunteers next to their bounty of Pacific lionfish collected during a successful ecotourism trips (Before Hurricane Sally). Credit: Brady Hale.


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:

--None scheduled--

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