PUBLISHED ON January 31st, 2012
Ask anyone at your local pest control company, and they’ll tell you that education is more than half the battle in pest management. This is true for the residential form of local pest control – i.e., keeping rodents and insects out of your kitchen, outbuildings and other occupied areas. But information is also power in controlling pest infestations that occur on a larger scale – such as across natural areas.
Ecologists study this second variety of pest problem, which can dramatically change a landscape without careful pest management. For instance, invasive plant or animal species from tropical locations often have no competition or predators in the United States. This allows them to spread like wildfire. In some places, widespread invasive plant species have changed diverse ecosystems into monocultures of foreign species. Entire food chains of native flora and fauna can be lost in such instances.
A similar phenomenon occurs when non-native invasive insect species are introduced into our national forests. The Asian Longhorned Beetle serves as an excellent example. The female of the species bores into hardwood trees such as chestnut, ash, birch and poplar. The pupae later feast on the tree’s internal tissue – at first the layers just below the bark, and later on, the heartwood. Each mated female Asian Longhorned Beetle (ALB) drills between 35 and 90 holes and lays an egg in each one; you can imagine what kind of havoc this unleashes for the tree. It is believed that ALBs were introduced to the United States via shipping containers from China.
Below, we list ways that invasive species are often unwittingly spread. To help prevent the spread of these unwelcome flora and fauna, avoid these worst practices.
Invasive maritime species are often spread by boaters who fail to clear their vessels of all organic debris prior to dropping anchor in a new body of water. To make sure you’re not spreading invasive species, remove all plants, mud, and other detritus from your boat before leaving the dock area. Additionally, you should drain your boat before leaving the access site. Finally, allow any equipment that touched lake, stream or ocean water to dry completely before putting your boat in the water again.
Each country has its own standards for examining fruits and vegetables for invasive species. To prevent the spread of agriculture pests and other invasive species, fill out all customs declarations forms completely. Do not illegally import produce or other products.
Here’s a surprising form of local pest control: buying firewood near where you plan to camp. Otherwise, if you bring firewood from home, you could be introducing invasive species, which often lay eggs or remain dormant in woodpiles.
To protect native areas, state and federal officials restrict which plants and animals may be imported. For instance, Hawaiian officials do not allow certain palms to be imported, since the extremely damaging red palm weevil has spread around the world mainly via nursery stock.
As every local pest control company can tell you, bed bugs can now be found in nearly every American town. They spread via travelers, who unwittingly tote them from bedroom to bedroom. Bed bugs can hitch a ride on luggage, bedding, the cloth seats of public transportation vehicles, and even clothing. Therefore, you can help prevent the spread of bedbugs by checking hotel bedding for bed bugs. You should also check for bugs and eggs on your own luggage and other belongings once you return home.
Invasive species have been known to hitchhike into the United States via imported exotic flowers. Many of these cut flowers enter the U.S. through Miami’s airport, where inspectors find an average of 90 species every day that could pose a danger to plants on American soil. So keep your Valentine’s Day flower shopping local – pest control professionals will thank you.
The seeds or eggs of invasive species can get stuck in your hiking boots. If you don’t wipe them off before you leave a natural area, the invasive species can be transported. To prevent this phenomenon, wipe off your hiking boots before getting into the car – on both ends of the journey. Equipment moved from the woods should also be cleaned off.