NYS Invasive Species Week: A story you'll be itching to read

Jul 9, 2018

The 5th annual New York State Invasive Species Awareness Week has begun. In New York it’s easy to be aware of invasive species since we have so many of them. Thanks to our early success creating a world-class sea port, and excellence in canal-building, NY has more invasive forest pests than any other state, and ranks in the top three for aquatic invasives. I guess the folks who set out to make NY the Empire State should have thought twice about trying to rank first in everything.

Why you need to catch invasive species early.
Credit Adirondack Park Invasive Plant Program

However, we are also doing a lot right. New York State has funded six region-wide Partnerships for Regional Invasive Species Management (PRISMs), which pull together private and public groups to cooperate in the prevention and control of invasives. Western New York is covered by the Western NY PRISM.

Some of the highlights of invasive lowlife include the new (2014) spotted lanternfly, which made its way to the United States on a pallet of stones shipped from China to Pennsylvania. Although with its wings outstretched, the colorful lanternfly looks like a moth, it is neither moth nor fly, but rather a planthopper.

These things work far too hard at sucking the sap out of trees, because they drain trees dry, often killing them. It prefers the Ailanthus tree, also from China, but these do not (yet) grow in northern NYS. However, they’ll settle for sugar maple, so we need to keep an eye out for lanternflies.

Anyone who remembers the Great Lakes before about 1985 knows what a dramatic change the tiny but prolific zebra mussel wrought. And more recently, the round goby and spiny water flea have taken some of the fun out of angling.

The invasive emerald ash borer has all but wiped out ash trees wherever it has become established.
Credit USDA

By now, most know that in 2017, the emerald ash borer can be found. For such a destructive pest, the EAB is tiny—two of them fit end-to-end across a nickel with room to spare. It would be easy to overlook if not for its bright, metallic, emerald-green color with copper highlights.

The adult beetles themselves do little harm, but the juveniles are guilty of real delinquency. Immature EAB (larvae) feed on cambium tissue of ash trees, girdling and thus killing them. Aside from ash protected with insecticides (at some expense) through the estimated 15-year duration of EAB infestation, all ash trees in NY State will die.

During Invasive Species Awareness Week, people can take advantage of several events where kids and adults alike can learn more about the species affecting out region, and what we can do in response. Events are listed on the website of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation site at https://www.dec.ny.gov/animals/105650.html

Paul Hetzler is a horticulture and natural resources educator with Cornell Cooperative Extension of St. Lawrence County.