Pest Control – Invasive, Part 3
There are numerous species of plant, animal and insect pests inadvertently introduced into the United States. Many are beneficial or benign, but some are causing real problems for this country either by threatening our native flora and fauna, threatening our safety, threatening our industry. Here are descriptions of some of them.
African honeybees – were introduced into South America in the 1950’s in order to breed them with existing (European) bees for better honey production. The problem began when some of them got free and began to spread throughout parts of South America and into North America. These bees are more sensitive to disturbances around its nest. It will also deliver a much more intense sting than the native European bee populations. The European bee is known to be a gentler, less aggressive bee that doesn’t swarm when stimulated the way African bees will. However, African bees have received a lot of sensationalized press that isn’t always consistent with reality. Incidents of stinging do occur, but for the most part, people are not usually affected by these bees. If attacked by them you should cover up your head and face and run away; and seek cover in a building or car. As soon as safely away, start to scrape out the stingers (you can also use tape to get them out, or pull them). Call for emergency help as soon as possible.
Mole crickets – these crickets that are serious pests cause the most of their damage in the southern U.S. They were inadvertently introduced here in the early twentieth century and can cause extensive damage plants and turf grasses. They feed on the roots of grass by burrowing in the soil underneath it. They cause a great deal of damage as they cause the grass to dry out. They will also feed heavily on plant seedlings, both the roots the stems and the foliage. Their tunneling, which can dislodge small seedlings, can also cause damage. There are parasitic nematodes that can help to control the mole cricket population by mixing them in water and spraying it on affected areas. There are also a number of chemical sprays that one can use to help control mole cricket populations.
Giant African snail – this large pest is thought to be one of the most damaging snails in the world. It’s a very serious threat to plants, and a threat to human health as well. They were apparently imported here illegally and sold in pet stores or through black-market dealers. The government implores those who have possession of these snails not to release it into the wild in this country. These snails can grow larger than a person’s hand, multiply rapidly (laying up to 1200 eggs a year), and eat more than 500 different kinds of plants. They also carry a parasite called Angiostrongylus cantonensis, which causes a form of meningitis. It is illegal to own them without a government permit. They are giants because they can have shells that are more than 8 inches long and that weigh over 2 pounds. There have been few successful means of control found for the giant African snail to this time. To control it you must catch it early before it has a chance to reproduce.
With the world shrinking all of the time and more and more people traveling and shipping to all parts of the world, the number of alien species appearing in other countries is sure to increase. We must be ever-vigilant.
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