October 2019
Volunteers Wanted for Survey of Aquarium Stores in Texas

Some aquatic invasive fish in Texas, such as the pleco (Hypostomus plecostomus), originated from the aquarium trade. Pet owners, for a variety of reasons including their fish getting too big or having to move, sometimes are no longer able to keep their aquarium fish. Because they of course care for the well-being of their fish, they release the fish into our natural waters rather than dispose of them. To help counter this problem, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) created an outreach campaign to educate the public about alternatives to releasing fish and other aquarium organisms, called "Never Dump Your Tank".

Another way to approach the problem is to get a better understanding of the availability of current or potential invasive fish being sold at aquarium stores in Texas. TPWD and Texasinvasives.org are collaborating on just such a study. The study relies on volunteers visitING stores to determine whether they are selling these species. Dr. Hans Landel (yours truly) gave a presentation at the annual Master Naturalists meeting in Rockwall earlier this month describing the study, training and responsibilities of the volunteers. You can see the presentation here.

Note that except for tilapia (Tilapia spp.), the species of interest are legal to sell – the survey is meant only to gather information that will be used to inform further outreach programs.

Volunteers are needed! Please help by participating. Contact Dr. Landel at invaders@texasinvasives.org if you or your organization (such as your Master Naturalist chapter) would like to help.


pleco outside
Credit: TPWD

aquarium store
Credit: http://fishbreeds.net/picking-a-quality-fish-store/

Credit: Julian Matz, Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0

Texas Gulf Region Cooperative Weed Management Area Holds Workday and Meeting

The Texas Gulf Region Cooperative Weed Management Area (TGR-CWMA) held its semiannual open meeting in Port Aransas on October 23. This meeting is always open to the public. Among the topics discussed were updates and planning on funding, treatments for the removal of Brazilian peppertrees in Charlie's Pasture and near the UT-Marine Science Institute (UTMSI), and continued outreach efforts. The CWMA also conducted a workday of removing Brazilian peppertrees from the Birding Center and from private property. If you would like help in removing peppertrees from your property in Port Aransas during the next workday in February, you may contact Rae Mooney, Port Aransas' Nature Preserve Manager, at rmooney@cityofportaransas.org or (361) 749-0081.

The first semiannual meeting for 2020 will likely be held in February during the same week as Port Aransas' Whooping Crane Festival. Expect there to be a workday and outreach events, as well. Plan to attend!



Credits: Hans Landel, Texasinvasives.org/ TIPPC/LBJWC

Warming Climate Expected to Allow Invasive Brazilian Peppertree to Expand Northward

Speaking of Brazilian peppertrees, new research by scientists at the U.S. Geological Survey suggests that as our climate warms, Brazilian peppertrees will increase their distribution northward. The researchers looked at its sensitivity to freezing temperatures and found that -11°C (12°F) is the temperature under which it doesn't survive.

"Our future scenario analyses indicate that, in response to warming winter temperatures, Brazilian pepper is expected to expand northward and transform ecosystems in north Florida and across much of the Gulf of Mexico and south Atlantic coasts of the United States."

Osland MJ, Feher LC. Winter climate change and the poleward range expansion of a tropical invasive tree (Brazilian pepper—Schinus terebinthifolius). Glob Change Biol. 2019;00:1–9. https://doi.org/10.1111/gcb.14842


Biocontrol Agent Air Potato Leaf Beetle Found in The Woodlands

Air potato, Dioscorea bulbifera, has been taking over east Texas forests. This invasive vine grows quickly to cover vegetation, shading out native plants with its relatively large leaves. Florida considers it one of its most invasive plants. The Florida Department of Agriculture (FDA) has an active biological control program for air potato that has been implemented successfully throughout Florida, Georgia and Louisiana. The program uses the air potato leaf beetle, Lilioceris cheni. Both larvae and adults feed on the leaves.

The FDA has been recruiting individuals to release the beetles in Texas. Perhaps that effort is paying off, because the beetles were recently found in the township of The Woodlands, about 30 mi north of Houston. This is good news!

If you think you have found air potato leaf beetles in Texas, please take some photos and send them to Hans Landel at invaders@texasinvasives.org. Thank you!

Credit: Allen Selmer, The Woodlands

Visit to Salvinia Weevil Rearing Facility at Caddo Lake

Another biological control program that is important in Texas is the one that relies on the salvinia weevil, Cyrtobagous salviniae, to help manage giant salvinia, Salvinia molesta in the state. Giant salvinia infests many lakes in east Texas, including Caddo Lake. Earlier this month, Dr. Hans Landel (yours truly) visited Caddo Lake to hold an informational meeting with local residents and to visit the weevil rearing facilities. At the meeting, held at the Johnson Ranch Marina in Uncertain, he answered questions about Caddo Lake invasive species and their management, with the invaluable help of Laura Speight (Caddo Biocontrol Alliance), Laura-Ashley Overdyke (Caddo Lake Institute), and Robert Speight (Northeast Texas Municipal Water District). The local participants enjoyed the conversation and found it very informative.

Dr. Landel also visited the salvinia weevil rearing facilities of the Caddo Biocontrol Alliance (CBA). Housed in a greenhouse in Uncertain, the facility consists of several low rearing tanks full of giant salvinia on which the weevils grow. The staff, headed by Ms. Speight, periodically census the populations in the tanks. When the numbers are good, they release the weevils into Caddo Lake, and also sell them to TPWD for use throughout the state. Rearing the weevils is a very involved and complex process, but one that Ms. Speight and the rest of the staff and volunteers enjoy. They are willing to put in the time and effort to help the lake they love.

The CBA recently broke ground on construction of a second greenhouse next door, and now have office/lab space there as well. In the lab are rows of Burlese funnels, contraptions that the CBA uses to collect weevils from the giant salvinia to count, and a microscope to aid in counting.

Funding comes from several sources, including the Caddo Lake Institute, Greater Caddo Lake Association of Texas, US Fish and Wildlife Service, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Cypress Valley Navigation District and many grassroots donors.

For more information on the CBA's efforts, watch this great video, and follow them on Facebook. For more information on the Caddo Lake Institute, visit their website.

Caddo Lake meeting
Hans Landel (left) meeeting with Caddo Lake residents. Credit: Robert Speight

Morley Hudson Weevil Greenhouse. Credit: Hans Landel, Texasinvasives.org/TIPPC/LBJWC

Project manager Laura Speight (l) and greenhouse manager Hattie Hackler in the weevil rearing facility. Credit: Hans Landel, Texasinvasives.org/ TIPPC/ LBJWC

Laura Speight in the lab counting weevils collected from the Burlese funnels in the background. Credit: Hans Landel, Texasinvasives.org/ TIPPC/ LBJWC

Bill Seeks More Agricultural Inspectors at Ports of Entry

Many invasive species arrive in the United States as passengers in cargo of one kind or another. The U.S. Department of Agriculture, through its Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), coordinates with Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) to inspect cargo at points of entry for invasives and pests. Not surprisingly, the inspectors' job is not easy because the amount of cargo is tremendous. "On a typical day, those inspectors process more than 1 million passengers and 78,000 truck, rail and sea containers... According to CBP estimates, there is a shortage of nearly 700 inspectors across the country," according to this article in The Packer. To improve this situation, the U.S. Senate passed the Protecting America’s Food & Agricultural Act of 2019, which "authorizes [CBP] to hire inspectors, support staff and canine teams for airports, seaports and land ports of entry, according to a news release from the office of Sen. Gary Peters, R-Mich., a co-sponsor of the bill." Among the co-sponsors of the bill was Texas U.S. Senator John Cornyn. “This legislation would boost the number of inspectors safeguarding the safety and integrity of goods and products coming across our border, which would benefit all Americans,” Cornyn said in the press release from Senator Peters' office.

APHIS inspectors
Credit: APHIS

APHIS inspectors 2
Credit: APHIS

Emerald Ash Borer Update Webinars in November

Join Dr. Nate Siegert, USDA Forest Service, for the 11/07/19 'Urban Forestry Today' noonhour (Eastern) webcast, as he discusses the latest information pertaining to the Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) and its continued spread across the urban forests of the U.S. and Canada. Attend live & receive Free ISA/MCA CEU's by visiting www.joinwebinar.com and entering: 214-633-115.

In addition, Texasinvasives.org will host a webinar in November specifically on the status of EAB in Texas, presented by Allen Smith, Texas A&M Forest Service Entomologist and Forest Health Coordinator for East Texas. The date is to be determined, so keep an eye on the Texasinvasives.org Facebook page.

Credit: David Cappaert, Michigan State University, Bugwood.org

Invasive Spotlight:
Giant Hogweed
(Heracleum mantegazzianum)

Giant hogweed (Heracleum mantegazzianum) is originally from Eurasia. It is an aggressive competitor. Because of its size and rapid growth, it out-competes native plant species, reducing the amount of suitable habitat available for wildlife. It prefers moist, disturbed soils but can be found in a variety of habitats. Giant hogweed dies back during the winter months, leaving bare ground that can lead to an increase in soil erosion.

Giant hogweed is a biennial or perennial herb in the carrot family (Apiaceae), growing 15 to 20 feet in height with stout dark reddish-purple stems and spotted leaf stalks. Hollow stalks and stems produce sturdy bristles. The compound leaves with three leaflets may expand to five feet in breadth. It resembles cowparsnip (Heracleum maximum) (which can also cause rashes) but its leaves are more dissected and pointier than those of cowparsnip. (Cowparsnip isn't found in Texas, however.)

It is not found in Texas -- YET! We would like to keep it that way. PLease report it using the Report It! website if you think you have found some.

WARNING! Giant hogweed contains a substance within its sap that makes the skin sensitive to ultraviolet light. This can result in severe burns to the affected areas, producing swelling and severe, painful blistering. If you plan to eradicate it, be sure to wear gloves, long pants and a long-sleeved shirt.

Follow this link to learn more about giant hogweed.


Photographer: Terry English
Source: USDA APHIS PPQ, Bugwood.org


Accessed Aug 31, 2015.

More News

What to Do About the Egyptian Goose in Central Texas?
The Egyptian goose is a non-native that has been increasing its range in Texas. It is very territorial and can prevent native species of waterfowl from feeding and breeding. On the other hand, it can also keep out other non-native waterfowl. Some central Texas communities are wrestling with what to do about them. Learn more at kxan.com.

First Maps of Areas Suitable for Spotted Lanternfly's Establishment in US and World
Maps identifying the areas suitable for establishment of the spotted lanternfly (Lycorma delicatula) in the United States and other countries have been published. [While this invasive crop pest is not in Texas yet, the maps indicate its potential to establish here. One of its host plants is another invasive, tree-of-heaven (Ailanthus altissima), which has been planted widely in Texas (see Invaders of Texas map)]. Learn more at sciencedaily.com.

Removing Invasive Mice from the Farallon Islands Would Benefit Threatened Birds
New research shows the significant negative impact that invasive, non-native house mice (Mus musculus) on the Farallon Islands (off the California Coast) are having to the threatened ashy storm-petrel (Oceanodroma homochroa). The super-abundant mice encourage migrating burrowing owls (Athene cunicularia) to stay on the island, who later in the winter switch from eating mice to preying on the petrels. Learn more at sciencedaily.com.

Old Friends and New Enemies: How Evolutionary History Can Predict Insect Invader Impacts
Scientists have developed a model that could help foresters predict which nonnative insect invasions will be most problematic. This could help managers decide where to allocate resources to avoid widespread tree death. The new model can quickly evaluate whether a newcomer insect, even before it gets here, has a high probability of killing a population of North American trees. Learn more at sciencedaily.com.

Poor Water Conditions Drive Invasive Snakeheads onto Land
The largest fish to walk on land, the voracious northern snakehead (Channa argus) will flee water that is too acidic, salty or high in carbon dioxide -- important information for future management of this invasive species. Learn more at sciencedaily.com.


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.

Citizen Scientists Spotlight
Heartwood Invaders

The Woodlands Township Environmental Services Department sponsors an Invasives Task Force for Resident Volunteers

It was the summer of 2019. Invasive air potato vines, and some of their friends, were trying to take over several pathways and greenbelts within The Woodlands. Residents, however, were ready to fight back. In April, more than 40 area residents attended an Invaders of Texas training day and joined the Woodlands Township Environmental Services Department's Invasives Task Force to fight invasives at Township-approved sites along pathways. As they started removing the air potato vine, nandina, privet, and Japanese climbing fern, neighbors nearby came out to see what was happening. Inspired by the volunteers and their efforts, another 40 volunteers attended a training day in August, doubling the task force in the fight against invasives.

These dedicated Invasives Task Force volunteers have put in nearly 500 hours between May and September, removing over 2,600 gallons of invasive species material from the pathways. On October 1, a scout project was approved to do more work in one of the several locations where the group has been active.

The Invasives Task Force volunteers are looking forward to some cooler weather to continue the removal of invasive species and reclaim their green spaces for native plants and trees. Their vision is restoring the green of The Woodlands to its original look.

If you live in or near The Woodlands and would like to help, contact Teri MacArthur, Environmental Education Specialist, at 281-210-3928 or TMacArthur@thewoodlandstownship-tx.gov.

  The Woodlands logo

removing invasives in The Woodlands

Credit: Teri MacArthur, The Woodlands

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.