Is there a stranger in your garden?
Summer is the time when we’re reminded of nature’s best: blooming flowers, local strawberries and the return of hummingbirds.
And then, there’s the season’s worst: Japanese beetles, the plum pox virus, Virginia Creeper vine and stinkbugs.
Local family gardeners have plenty of invasive insects and plants to be on the lookout for. But where do they come from and what can a family do about them?
(subhed) Wayward hitchhikers
Many invasive species—especially plant, insect, bacterial and fungal specimens—are making their way to U.S. ports via shipping, despite attempts by any number of state and federal agencies work to spot those hitchhikers before they can set foot, feather or root on U.S. soil, explained state Department of Agriculture press secretary Nicole Bucher.
The department’s invasive species coordinator, entomologist Leo Donovall, said there are “hundreds if not thousands” of invaders that could be trying to crawl through the cracks, or at least hide in them.
Currently, the invasive species that everybody loves to hate is the brown marmorated stink bug, which evolved in Asia and has no natural enemies here. “The (brown marmorated stink bug) has exploded over the past couple of years,” said Donovall. “There is a cooperative effort between federal, state and local agencies, as well as farmers, are looking to find a native control. We hope that native predators will switch over and start preying on them.”
(subhed) Get ‘em outta here
Realistically, Donovall said, the possibility of totally eradicating any particular harmful species is fairly slim. What works, he said, is going after local infestations.
“The plum pox virus that attacked stone fruits (plums, cherries, peaches, nectarines, apricots and a few other species not grown here) is a good example,” he said.
In the fall of 1999, a strain of plum pox was found in fruit trees in Adams County, the first time it had shown up in the U.S. It was eventually detected in Cumberland, Franklin and York counties as well. Nearly 1700 acres of fruit trees were destroyed to stop the virus. It worked, but it took 10 years.
At least one group has a novel approach to combating invasive plants.
Kirsten Werner of the Media-based nonprofit Natural Lands Trust said a group has gotten together and named themselves “Invasivors.” If an invasive plant is edible, they come up with recipes and scarf them up.
“If you can’t beat it, eat it, that’s the motto,” she said with a laugh. “We’ve got a great recipe on our website for garlic mustard pesto. European settlers brought it to this country as a flavor enhancer, and now it’s out of control.”
For family gardeners, Donovall suggests keeping an eye on invasives and reporting them. “We urge people to report to the (Department of Environmental Protection) or to the Department of Agriculture. If we do find small populations, we attempt to eradicate them,” he said.
T.W. Burger is a freelance writer from Gettysburg. He is the author of the “Burger to Go” blogsite at Burger2go.wordpress.com.