Become more aware of invasive species

Last week was Invasive Species Awareness Week. I try my best to keep up on things, but I admit that I was not aware it was an awareness week.

Despite my shortcomings, invasive species awareness is an important thing all year long. Increasingly, invasive insects, plants and other organisms are challenging our natural areas by out-competing or decimating native populations. This is very important to local woodland owners, conservationists, and others.

Sara Stack, Graduate Research Assistant in Purdue’s Department of Entomology, recently reported in a blog post for Report IN! Forest Pest Outreach and Survey Project that it is important to remember that early detection is the best way to slow the spread of invasive species.

“The early detection of Asian longhorned beetle (ALB) by concerned citizens in 1996, and subsequent involvement by community members, has resulted in the containment or eradication of ALB in four states,” she said. “Continued public involvement will help us protect Indiana trees in the future.”

Stack said that residents can report invasive species by calling the Invasive Species hotline at 1-866-NO-EXOTIC (1-866-663-9684) or using the free Great Lakes Early Detection Network smartphone app, which can be downloaded on iTunes or GooglePlay. Purdue has put together a YouTube video to demonstrate how easily the app can be used to alert authorities: youtube.com/watch?v=eFvaweR4cSw.

In addition to insect pests of the invasive nature, we also have plants and other organisms that are not behaving themselves. As an example, our wonderful state parks are struggling with invasive plants that begin to dominate certain areas. Some examples of these “bad actors” include callery pear, bush honeysuckle, multiflora rose and autumn olive.

Take some time this spring to go into a local woods or a state park just before most trees have leafed out. You may notice that there are smaller trees, shrubs or vine species in the understory that are fully green already. Some of these may be invasive species. One competitive advantage of many of these species is that they leaf out before most native trees, and they stay green later in the fall after most trees have lost their leaves.

Additionally, more and more homeowners are reconsidering the plants in their own home landscape, and favoring native plants (or at least better-behaved plants). Some common landscape plants have moved via birds, animals or other means into natural environments and have become a problem. A couple of examples include burning bush and English ivy.

Various groups have identified and listed invasive species that threaten local ecosystems. Among these groups are:

• Indiana Department of Natural Resources: in.gov/dnr/3123.htm

• Indiana Cooperative Agricultural Pest Survey (CAPS) Committee (Purdue and partner organizations): extension.entm.purdue.edu/CAPS/index.html

• Indiana Native Plant and Wildflower Society: inpaws.org/

• Midwest Invasive Plant Network: mipn.org/

For more information on invasive plant species in forest habitats, access the Purdue publication FNR-230-W, Invasive Plant Species in Hardwood Tree Plantations, at Purdue’s The Education Store, mdc.itap.purdue.edu.

I encourage you to become more aware of invasive species, and identify steps you can take to minimize their impact in our environment.

— John Woodmansee is extension educator in Whitley and Noble counties.

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