I reached for the water bottle next to my bed a few nights ago to take a gulp of water before rolling over and going back to sleep. As the cool water passed over my lips I felt immediately that something was horribly wrong. My tongue sensed a solid where only liquid should be and my reaction was to launch everything in my mouth across the bedroom. Not only had it been something solid, it was also moving…
My flashlight revealed a Brown Marmorated Stink Bug amidst the splatter of water and saliva, and he was probably as alarmed as I was.
Many of us have faced this new infestation here in the Mid-Atlantic states, but it is by no means the first or the last. You have also probably heard of such other critters-non-grata like the snakehead, the Asian carp, or the ash borer beetle. Or perhaps others from the plant world like multiflora rose, kudzu, and Japanese Stiltgrass. And certainly there are many, many others that you may never have heard of and would not recognize as invasive. Would you know a nutria if you ran into one in the marsh? Can you tell the difference between a mute swan and a trumpeter swan? A migratory and a non-migratory Canada Goose?
In an age of globalism, it is a challenge to monitor, regulate, and combat the movement of species into new and unintended territory. We move ourselves and our products around the world constantly and with increasing dexterity, and with us and those items travel a huge range of organisms. There was a time when this was not seen as a problem, but rather an opportunity – and we have seen what horrific consequences those decisions have had; just look for ground birds in New Zealand.
So what can we do? You can first educate yourself on local invasive by going to a site like Maryland’s http://www.mdinvasivesp.org to learn more about how invasives are impacting your area. Next, you can take action locally by removing invasives in your yard and replanting with native plants – you can learn all about native plants here in Maryland at Irvine’s Native Plant Seminar in August (visit our website for more details this summer). Or you can come out to Irvine and volunteer for invasive removal – we need all the help we can get and you could learn a lot!
If you are a fisherman or hunter, you can target invasive species and enjoy some fresh snakehead or goose for dinner. This is commonly referred to as the “can’t beat them, eat them” model. Although I would not suggest this with a nutria…(in some states there is a bounty on nutria and/or a market for their fur, but please check local rules and regulations before hunting anything).
More and more of us see wash stations for hiking boots, fishing waders, and boats, and we need to take advantage of those and encourage their use by others. A simple dunk in a mild breach solution could prevent another river from suffering a Didymo Algae infestation. Cleaning out the live well and any ballast tanks on your boat may keep zebra mussels from impacting yet another river or lake. And don’t transfer species from one place to the next on your own – you may not fully understand the repercussions of something so seemingly harmless as stocking a lake with your favorite prey species to “improve” your secret fishing spot.
So take some action, learn more about this increasingly impactful problem, and work to preserve and even enhance our environment.