This past week I had the opportunity to attend the American Society of Horticultural Sciences annual meeting and conference in Miami, Fla. As part of the conference, I went on the Invasive Species tour. What an eye opener!
Regular readers of this column know that I have focused on invasive species in Ohio in the past. We have honeysuckle and garlic mustard in the plant world and emerald ash borer and Asian longhorned beetle in the insect world; these are all considered invasive species.
An invasive species is one that is not native to the ecosystem (Ohio for instance) and whose introduction causes or is likely to cause economic or environmental harm or harm to human health.
Take Asian longhorned beetle, the despicable pest that Clermont County, Ohio, is managing. At this time, more than 8,000 trees have been removed at a considerable cost. The hopes are to eradicate this insect, which has the potential to kill more than 17 different genera of trees. It scares the living daylights out of me with the potential for destruction.
On the tour, we visited the Miami office of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s APHIS (Animal Plant Health Inspection Services). The port of Miami receives 89 percent of cut flowers. Approximately 10 percent of the cut flowers that come through are inspected for pests and diseases.
Florida State Extension entomologist Catherin Mannion said that in the past, they would be alerted to at least one new pest a month. In the last two years, they have gotten two new pests per month, making it very difficult to focus on any one pest.
When a new pest is discovered, they have to determine if this is going to have an impact on Florida’s ecosystem.
An invasive pest can be so bad that it can shut down an industry.
An invasive pest can be so bad that it can cause health problems. Ragweed parthenium is a weed that was introduced to southern Florida and has spread considerably.
This plant can cause asthma, bronchitis, contact dermatitis and other breathing issues in humans. It is poisonous to mammals. It increases the costs in producing crops and may restrict the sale of contaminated products.
Invasive species can come into the country and Ohio in a variety of ways. It’s up to us to be vigilant and not move these pests. For instance if you go on vacation and walk in a natural area, be sure to clean your pants and socks of any hitchhikers. Check your cars and campers for hitchhikers if you have been in an area that might have gypsy moths that lay eggs in hiding placed.
Therefore, I ask you again to be vigilant and on the lookout. If you see something in the landscape or in natural areas that doesn’t look right, don’t brush it off! Identify it and make sure it’s not a threat to our environment or human health.