Invasive species find their way into the country via unchecked boxes, pallets, luggage and hitchhiking on animals. Once here they can multiply and spread unchecked due to the lack of natural predators and because it may take some time before we realize there is a problem, containment and elimination becomes near impossible. Unfortunately, often the rise of non-native species means the decline of native ones, because they are not subject to predation and diseases may not have caught up with them yet, invasives can completely take over a niche.
The 12 most virulent invasive species in the United States have been identified, along with Burmese pythons, nutria, European starlings, northern snakehead, feral hogs, lionfish and other animals, 3 insects made the cut, all of which can have devastating impacts on vegetation. The emerald ash borer, brown marmorated stinkbug and Asian citrus psyllid have been named as some of the most destructive pests now widespread in the U.S. and they all can impact our natural resources and crops.
The emerald ash borer beautiful, shimmering appearance is very deceiving. These pests have made their way from their initial point of entry in Michigan throughout much of the northeast with no signs of stopping. These pests affect all species of ash trees, causing massive mortalities which continue basically unabated. To date, tens of millions of ash trees have been killed and the number is still on the rise.
And while the brown marmorated stinkbug causes an annoyance to humans; they find their way into our houses and, true to their name, emit an unpleasant odor. They swarm and smell, but they don’t bite or carry disease. However, they do destroy fruit and vegetation, and can generally drive up the price of produce. Stinkbugs are originally from China and were first identified in Pennsylvania, probably after hitching a ride on a cargo ship.
The Asian citrus psyllid is a pest with the potential to cause destruction of epic proportions, some experts forecast the end of the Florida citrus industry if they continue unchecked. These psyllids carry a disease known as “citrus greening” and is compared to cancer by farmers. Citrus greening deforms roots, causes fruit to drop prematurely and eventually kills the tree. Apparently citrus greening has been identified on an estimated 50% of Florida’s citrus population, which can be disastrous to the industry that provides the country with 80% of its orange juice. Unfortunately the impact isn’t limited to oranges, the insect and disease have also been found in California, Texas, Louisiana and Georgia which produce the majority of the nation’s lemons. Psyllids were first discovered in Miami in 1998, but identification of the disease wasn’t confirmed until 2005, it had already spread to 31 counties in 2 years.