Tag Archives: Invasives

Hemlock Woolly Adelgid

The Hemlock Woolly Adelgid (HWA) is one of few insects active during the winter months, and so now is the perfect time to be on the lookout for this tiny invader. Hemlock Woolly Adelgid (HWA) is an invasive insect native to Japan. We think it was introduced in the mid-1900s when Japanese ornamental plants became very popular in American gardens. This tiny insect is specific to evergreen hemlock trees (Tsuga spp.), attaching to new branchlets and feeding on the hemlocks starchy liquids. This continuous feeding weakens the trees and can kill it over the course of about six years. HWA has caused the death of millions of hemlocks along the Appalachians, and gray, ghostly forests are moving ever northward into New York.

HWA egg sacs are the most visible form of the insect, seen from October-May, a time when most insect predators are not active. Egg sacs are found on the underside of hemlock branches and look like small, white, fuzzy blobs, like the tip of a cotton swab.

HWA reproduces twice a year, allowing for exponential population growth in a short period of time. NYS Parks is taking an active role in managing new infestations of HWA. Chemical insecticides, applied very specifically to individual hemlocks, are the best method of control. In addition, NYS Parks has released predatory insects as biological controls in several state parks, with the hope they will one day keep HWA populations in check. Parks just hosted two HWA volunteer training events in Western NY to help us determine presence/absence areas.

Now is the perfect time to be on the lookout for HWA. For more information, or to report sightings in NYS Parks, contact  invasives@parks.ny.gov

Milkweed

Besides cleaning up our parks, invasive species removal teams sometimes get the opportunity to enjoy the truly lovely flora of New York State Parks. The following pictures are from Invasive Species Awareness Week, where a team cleared out wild parsnip from bird habitat in Thacher State Park.

Wild parsnip - beware! by Steve Young, NYNHP
Wild parsnip – beware! by Steve Young, NYNHP

Wild parnsip (Pastinaca sativa) is a member of the carrot family, but unlike their tasty orange relatives Wild parsnips can bite back! Wild parsnip contains chemicals called furanocoumarins, which, when exposed to sunlight on skin, can cause phytophotodermatitis, a toxic skin reaction. The chemicals prevent the skin from protecting itself from ultraviolet rays, resulting in the worst sunburn of your life.

A far-off bobolink thrives in the grassland, by Melissa Plemons
A far-off bobolink thrives in the grassland, by Melissa Plemons
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Lovely milkweed blossoms, by Melissa Plemons

The removal of wild parsnip from the field benefits grassland birds, like the bobolink, and also promotes the growth of native plants like milkweed. Milkweed plants (Asclepias spp.) have been used culturally as food, fiber, and medicine. In addition to being the only plant that monarch caterpillars can live and feed on, milkweed species are attractive to many other insects, including the large milkweed bug, common milkweed bug, red milkweed beetle, blue milkweed beetle, and all sorts of bees. Certain predators, like yellow jackets and crab spider, make a point of targeting flies and bees that visit the flowers. Native birds enjoy snacking on these insects, too!

 

The featured image is of milkweed blossoms at Thacher State Park, by Melissa Plemons. Post by Paris Harper.

Benthic Barriers in Rudd Pond

No one likes to hop into the water on a hot day and find a slimy, tangled forest of plants. In many state parks, aquatic invasives plants encroach on public swimming areas, ruining recreational areas as well as habitat for native species in the same lakes and ponds. At Rudd Pond in Taconic State Park in Columbia County, a simple management strategy may prove to be an effective way to protect a swim area against unpleasant and unwelcome weeds.

Eurasian watermilfoil and water chestnut grow densely along the shoreline of Rudd Pond.
Eurasian watermilfoil and water chestnut grow densely along the shoreline of Rudd Pond.

Rudd Pond, at the southern end of Taconic State Park, is a popular swimming and fishing area, supporting populations of panfish, largemouth bass, and chain pickerel. Unfortunately, the pond also supports thriving populations of aquatic invasive species including water chestnut, curly pondweed, and Eurasian watermilfoil.

Benthic barriers are porous mats that are placed on the bottom of a lake or pond. They restrict sunlight from reaching the lake bottom in the areas where they are installed. The absence of sunlight restricts the growth of aquatic plants.

The benthic barrier mats were placed all around the swimming area.
The benthic barrier mats were placed all around the swimming area.

The benthic mats are used to create a buffer zone to prevent aquatic invasive species from threatening the utility of the public swimming area. An aquatic weed harvester is used to cut the plants below the surface in the main part of the pond. However, harvesters do leave behind fragments of plants that can regrow. There is no single perfect solution to managing aquatic invasives, but the use of several management strategies continues to show improvement at Rudd Pond.

The mats were assembled on land, and then the water quality unit placed them in the water
The mats were assembled on land, and then the water quality unit placed them in the water. Some park staff donned SCUBA suits to position the deeper mats!

Check out the NYS Parks poster on preventing the spread of aquatic invasive species

Featured image is of curly-leafed pondwater underwater adjacent to the Rudd Pond swimming area. Photos and post by Paris Harper.

iMapInvasives

We’re celebrating Invasive Species Awareness Week, and so here’s some information on a cool new software that’s used to document the occurences of invasives species in New York:

iMapInvasives is an online mapping tool that collects and displays geographical data for invasive plant and animal species. Invasive species are non-native plants, animals, and pathogens that cause harm to the environment, the economy, or to human health. In the past, early detection of invasive species has been difficult, and management typically only began well after the invasive population was well-established. iMapInvasives is a tool sophisticated enough for monitoring and management projects, but easy enough to use for a citizen scientist to upload point data on a patch of pernicious weeds growing in his or her backyard. In this way, the software broadens the scope of invasives monitoring, promotes early detection of invasive populations, and helps natural and agricultural resource managers know where to look for potentially harmful invasives.

While iMapInvasives is available to everyone who requests a login, training in the online software is available, and it’s required for anyone who wants to use the more advanced features of the program. I was able to participate in the beginner and advanced training courses for iMapInvasives, provided by the Capitol/Mohawk PRISM (Partnerships for Regional Invasive Species Management) in Voorheesville.

In the basic course, we learned identification techniques for some common invasive plants and insects, including Japanese Barberry, garlic mustard, Asian long-horned beetle, and hemlock wooley adelgid. We also learned how to input our data into the software and perform searches based on different parameters which might be used by project managers.

The advanced course covered agricultural pests, aquatic plants, and some additional terrestrial plants, and we learned how iMapInvasives can be used to record treatment data and to survey large areas for the presence or absence of invasive species.

I attended the training as an employee of State Parks and the Student Conservation Association, however, other attendees were from other state agencies, as well as members of Park Friends groups, gardeners, and non-profit groups such as the Sierra Club.

If you would like to get involved, go to www.NYiMapInvasives.org and:

1)      Request a login

2)      Get trained with online video training, or sign up for the course

3)      Login and begin mapping on your computer or smartphone!

Featured image is of Japanese knotweed, an invasive species in New York. Photo by Troy Weldy, NYNHP. Post by Paris Harper

NYS Parks Wins Great Lakes Grant

GLRI

On February 25th, 2014, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced the winners of 11 Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) grants totaling more than $5 million for projects to combat invasive species in the Great Lakes basin.

The GLRI is a task force of 11 federal agencies targeting pollution, habitat restoration, invasive species, and establishing partnerships between agencies. Since 2010, the EPA has awarded more than 70 projects totaling over $40 million to combat terrestrial and aquatic invasives and to prevent the introduction of new invasive species.

The New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation is honored to receive a $410,000 grant to establish a new boat stewardship and invasive species prevention program which will also create 17 new jobs while educating tens of thousands of boaters.

The boat steward program will be an education based initiative to prevent the spread of aquatic invasives in the Great Lakes watershed. Over the 18 month grant period, NYS Parks will send boat stewards to 15 previously unmonitored boat launches and marinas along the Lake Erie shoreline, the Niagara River, Lake Ontario, and the St. Lawrence River. The boat stewards will perform boat inspections while educating the public on the impacts of aquatic invasives and the methods for their management and control. Stewards will also participate in team projects as a CORPS to implement rapid response measures to reduce already established populations of aquatic invasives.

At NYS Parks, we have the unique opportunity to manage and protect a large geographic area of the Great Lakes watershed and fill in the gaps not currently covered by other states or groups. This project will complement and support boat stewardship programs already established in New York State, including Paul Smith’s College, the Finger Lakes Institute, and New York Sea Grant. By building upon these successful programs, we will be spreading a standardized message all across the state that patrons should “Clean, Drain, Dry” their boats.

Check out the other award winners at the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.

For more information on boating, visit the NYS Parks Marine Services site.