October 2018
Texas Invasive Plant and Pest Conference Recap

The 7th Texas Invasive Plant and Pest Conference was held October 23-26, 2018, at the University of Texas Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. The attendees had the opportunity to re-connect with colleagues and friends from across the state, meet new colleagues, exchange ideas, and learn -- all while enjoying the beautiful surroundings of the Wildflower Center. There were 28 excellent and informative presentations, including 3 posters and 5 by students. Topics ranged from updates on aquatic invasive species across the state, to lionfish (Pterois volitans), to management of King Ranch bluestem (Bothriochloa ischaemum), to Texas Parks and Wildlife Department's outreach program to inform the public about the issues associated with dumping aquaria into our waters, to the use of dogs to find zebra mussels (Dreissena polymorpha). The symposium on the work being done to manage giant salvinia (Salvinia molesta) in Caddo Lake was particularly enlightening. The Reception at Threadgill's was fun, the field trips informative, and the banquet delicious. In fact, all the food was delicious – thanks to Threadgill's, Circle C Catering, and Austin Catering. Thanks as well to our sponsors: The Nature Conservancy of Texas, the Texas Invasive Species Institute, the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, the Texas Invasive Plant and Pest Council (TIPPC), and the Texas Lionfish Control Unit.

TIPPC held its board of directors' meeting as well as the general business meeting. Among other business items, new officers were elected: Scott Walker, of Geosyntec, is the new President; Autumn Smith-Herron, of the Texas Invasive Species Institute (TISI) at Sam Houston State University, is the new Academia representative as well as the new Past-President; Hans Landel is the new Secretary, and Ashley Morgan-Olvera, also of TISI, is a new Member-at-Large. Minutes from both meetings will be posted on the Texasinvasives.org website soon.

The Board and membership also recognized Dr. Robert McMahon, of the University of Texas at Arlington, who is retiring from the board as the Academia representative. Dr. McMahon's tireless work for the Council, as well as his outstanding research on zebra mussels in Texas, has been greatly appreciated. Thank you, Dr. McMahon!

All in all, we had an extraordinarily good time. Be sure to attend the next conference!

For more information on the Conference, including a link to abstracts, go to the Conference website.



TIPPC Conference 2018 date

TIPPC 2018 group photo Credit: Hans Landel, Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center/TIPPC/Texasinvasives.org


Texas Aquatic Plant Management Society Conference in San Antonio November 26-27, 2018

All TAPMS members and others who are interested in aquatic plant management, biology or ecology, or who are involved in the protection, management and restoration of water and wetland resources, including members of the public, are invited to attend. Whether you work in the public or private sector, as an aquatic weed management professional, water resource manager, researcher, or regulatory official, or are simplyy interested in what is going on in Texas with respect to aquatic plant management, the 2018 conference will deliver up-to-date information. Students are strongly encouraged to attend!

Topics covered: Aquatic plant management tools and techniques, recent technological advances, research results that are relevant to your work, environmental laws and regulations, public outreach initiatives, Business Development, and TAPMS business. All TDA certified aquatic pesticide applicators will receive CEU credits for attending. For more information, go to the conference webpage.

TAPMS logo

Gulf and South Atlantic Regional Panel on Aquatic Species Met in San Antonio

On October 30 & 31, 2018, the Gulf and South Atlantic Regional Panel (GSARP) on Invasive Aquatice Species met in San Antonio. The panel is comprised of members from Federal, State, and other agencies and organizations and holds a public meeting twice a year to provide updates and discuss issues surrounding aquatic invasive species in the Region. Dr. Hans Landel, the Invasive Species Program Coordinator at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center and the manager of Texasinvasives.org, was invited to give a presentation on the Invaders of Texas program, as well as updates on the Texas Gulf Region Cooperative Weed Management Area in the Port Aransas area and on current efforts to establish two new Cooperative Invasive Species Management Areas in Northeast Texas and in the Houston area. For more information on GSARP, visit their website.


Be on the Lookout for the Cuban Treefrog

One species that was discussed at the GSARP meeting is the Cuban treefrog (Osteopilus septentrionalis). This large invasive frog that eats pretty much whatever moves – including native frogs – is associated with decreases in populations of native frogs. It is definitely a species to be on the lookout for, especially along the coast and in the Houston area. Its closest location is in southern Louisiana, including breeding populations in New Orleans. It can get to 5 inches long, is variable in color, and characteristically has very large toe pads. You can find more information, including a link to its distinctive call, at this webpage.

Cuban Treefrog by Leanna Powers
Note the very large toe pads. Credit: Leanna Powers

Non-native Plants in Urban and Suburban Gardens Lower Chickadee Reproduction

A question that is often asked is, what impacts do non-native plants in gardens have on the native birds. Researchers from the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center
addressed this question. They studied the effect of non-native plants in urban and suburban gardens on the reproductive success of Carolina Chickadees (Poecile carolinensis). They enlisted homeowners, through the Neighborhood Nestwatch citizen science program, to monitor birds breeding on their property while the researchers measured the amount of food available. The amount of native plants in the gardens varied. The researchers found that "If more than 30 percent of total biomass in a given area is nonnative, chickadees are not able to maintain a stable local population." Read more at Smithsonian.com.

Carolina Chickadee
Credit: Dan Pancamoy

APHIS Produces a "Story Map" on the Emerald Ash Borer

USDA-APHIS (Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service) has prepared a new interactive "story map" on the emerald ash borer (Agrilus planipennis). Take a look! It's very informative. It also discusses APHIS's plan to move away from quarantines and other regulatory activities to focus its resources on developing and deploying its biological control program.

If your organization would like to partner with APHIS on EAB biological control efforts, for example by deploying monitoring traps, please email EAB.Biocontrol.Program@aphis.usda.gov.

emerald ash borer
Credit: David Cappaert, Michigan State University

Quick Update on Possible Emerald Ash Borer in Tarrant County

As reported last month, a keen-eyed young naturalist in Fort Worth submitted an observation of a green beetle on iNaturalist that was later identified as a possible emerald ash borer (Agrilus planipennis, EAB). State and federal biologists quickly mobilized to search the area. Allen Smith, Forest Health Coordinator for East Texas and Entomologist for Texas A&M Forest Service, presented an update at the TIPPC Conference. He noted that eventually, 6 suspected EAB larvae were found and sent to an expert for identification. The verdict: NOT EAB. However, the situation is complicated and still unresolved: it is possible that the larvae represent a new species, a hybrid, or a developmental anomaly as a result of the larvae developing on Arizona ash (Fraxinus velutina). More collections will be made soon to help to clarify the situation. Stay tuned!

Credit: Allen Smith, Texas A&M Forest Service

Invasive Spotlight:
Giant Reed or Carrizo Cane
(Arundo donax)

Arundo donax, known as giant reed, giant cane, carrizo or Spanish cane, is one of the southern United State's most devastating riparian invasive species. Introduced from Asia, northern Africa and Europe, Arundo was likely first introduced in America in the early 1800s in California the the Spanish.

Arundo is a tall, perennial grass that can grow to heights over 20 feet. It has fleshy, creeping rootstocks that form compact masses from which fibrous roots emerge to penetrate deeply into the soil. Leaves are elongate, 1-2 inches wide and can be over 1 foot long. Flowers are presented in 2-foot long dense, plume-like panicles during the late summer and fall.

The plant chokes riparian areas and stream channels, crowding out native species, interfering with flood control, increasing fire potential and reducing habitat for wildlife. Its heavy use of water changes stream hydrology. Fragments of Arundo can float miles downstream when broken apart, forming new infestations.

There are now biological control agents that are being depolyed to help manage giant reed. These insects include a stingless wasp and a fly that attack stems, a leaf miner, and a scale that attacks the rhizomes.

Learn more about Arundo donax. Learn more about the biocontrol of Arundo.

English ivy
Arundo donax patch. Photo credit: Eleanor Forfang-Brockman, Cross Timbers Invaders. Invaders of Texas Program.

arundo gall wasp tetramesa-romana
The arundo gall wasp (Tetramesa romana), laying eggs. Credit: John Goolsby, USDA-ARS

More News

Invasive Forage Grass Leads to Grassland Bird Decline
Researchers found that a common cattle forage grass, tall fescue (Festuca arundinacea), is associated with nest failure in dickcissels (Spiza americana), small grassland birds similar to sparrows. Learn more at sciencedaily.com.

How People Power Can Track Alien Species
New research shows how the public can play a vital role in helping to track invasive species. [Of course, you Invaders of Texas citizen scientists know how important you are! – ed.]Learn more at sciencedaily.com.

Genomic Evidence of Rapid Adaptation of Invasive Burmese Pythons in Florida
By scanning regions of the Burmese python genome, researchers found that the pythons (Python bivittatus) have adapted to their new home by changing the regulation of "their digestive physiology to more efficiently eat prey constantly. This is alarming because … our data was suggesting that, through rapid adaptation, they are only 'getting better' at being an effective invasive predator". Learn more at sciencedaily.com.

Invasive Species in an Ecosystem Harm Native Organisms But Aid Other Invasive Species
The presence of an invasive species in an ecosystem makes native organisms more susceptible to pollutants and may encourage the spread of additional invasive species, according to new research. Learn more at sciencedaily.com.

Invasive Plants Can Boost Blue Carbon Storage
New research has revealed that some plant invaders could help fight climate change by making it easier for ecosystems to store 'blue carbon' -- the carbon stored in coastal environments like salt marshes, mangroves and seagrasses. But other invaders, most notably animals, can do the exact opposite. Learn more at sciencedaily.com.

Decline in Native Fish Species: Invasive Species on the Increase
A team that has conducted the first systematic analysis of long-term data on fish stocks in the Upper Danube, Elbe and Main rivers has concluded that native fish species are on the verge of extinction, while the populations of some invasive species are increasing. Learn more at sciencedaily.com.

Endangered Native Oyster Helped by Invasive Species
The presence of invasive oysters can support an endangered native oyster species, but only in certain situations. Read more at phys.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 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:

Friday, November 10, 2018
Location: Encino Branch Library, 2515 Evans Road East (San Antonio, TX)
Contact: Jerry Morrisey

Sentinel Pest Network Workshop
Saturday, January 19, 2019 (registration not open yet)
Location: AgriLife Office (Burnet, TX)
Contact: Susan Montgomery

Sentinel Pest Network Workshop
Saturday, February 2, 2019 (registration not open yet)
Location: Library, University of the Incarnate Word (San Antonio, TX)
Contact: Pamela Ball

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