(Alert: This is a 2-paragraph rant followed by the editorial.—The Publisher) WITH ALL THE THINGS to worry about, why add poison ivy? It’s not even an invasive species. It’s an all-American menace. It produces an oil that causes prolonged, painful itching so intense that it could be weaponized.
Some lucky people aren’t allergic to the poison ivy oil, which is called urushiol. It’s also produced by poison oak and poison sumac. Those of us who believe we break out in a rash just looking at these creepy plants could easily believe there’s a secret government facility in the desert stacked with barrels full of urushiol.
The above reflects a personal phobia. But there are critters and plants, large and small, that do pose threats of various kinds. Some of the latest were reported last week in Diane Valden’s story on the ninth Invasive Species Awareness Week (“Who invited them to our place?” June 9, Page 1). The observance ended June 12. It turns out that the invasive insect making state Department of Environmental Conservation experts most worried is the brightly colored spotted lanternfly. This bug has bad manners. Like the ability to destroy crops like grapes, hops, apples, blueberries and more, including ornamental and woody trees.
After the spotted lanternflies picnic on fruit and leave damaged crops behind, then they poop in such volume that it leads to the growth of mold, which leads to more ruined crops and lost revenues. The state reports the yearly grape crop has a value $150 million.
You can’t sue a spotted lanternfly for losses. But if we call them an invasive species, where did these invaders come from? According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, “The Spotted Lanternfly (Lycorma delicatula) is native to China and was first detected in Pennsylvania in September 2014.”
We can’t blame Pennsylvania. It too is a victim of the invaders. And China? Just because the spotted lanternfly was first identified there doesn’t tell us whose ship these lanternflies took to get here. That brings up another adaptive skill of this insect: it lays its eggs in small spaces on lots of different surfaces, which improves the chances that some spotted lanternflies would make it here alive.
We’re stuck with these bugs until we learn how to get rid of them without harming ourselves and other living things in the process. And we’re not in this alone when it comes to invasive species. Sometimes our bugs invade other countries.
On its website Smithsonian Magazine quotes Floyd Shockley, entomology collections manager at the National Museum of Natural History, who says: “Europeans and Asians dread the Colorado potato beetle…. The interloper, commonly found in the Rocky Mountains, destroys eggplant, tomato and tobacco plants as well as spuds. The fall armyworm, native to eastern and central North America, spread a few years ago to Africa and then Asia, where it began eating lucrative cash crops like maize and sorghum ….”
Mr. Shockly added that it is “harder to control [pests] in Europe and Asia, where farmers use fewer pesticides.”
The invasive migration of species is not going away. Instead, it’s more likely to increase as the pace of climate change intensifies. But we do not face this challenge alone. We have local, state, federal and international allies.
What can we do? Remember to include local produce in your diet and stay informed about unwelcome insect and plants.
For more information go online to Cornell Cooperative Extension Columbia Greene Counties: http://ccecolumbiagreene.org/ and click on the tab at the top of the screen for “Climate Change & the environment.