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It Takes a Village: Our Continued Efforts to Manage Invasive Species in the U.S.

spotted lanternfly, giant hornet, and little fire ant

From sea to shining sea: Invasive insect species pose threats U.S. agriculture, natural resources, and public health. Just three examples include the spotted lanternfly (Lycorma delicatula) (left) on the East Coast and spreading to the Midwest, the giant hornet Vespa mandarinia (middle) in the Pacific Northwest, and the little fire ant (Wasmannia auropunctata) (right) in both Florida and Hawaii. (Lanternfly photo by Emelie Swackhamer, Penn State University; hornet photo by Hanna Royals, USDA APHIS PPQ ITP; ant photo by Eli Sarnat; all via Bugwood.org)

By David Coyle, Ph.D.

David Coyle, Ph.D.

David Coyle, Ph.D.

Ah, invasive species. A topic near and dear to my heart (and the hearts of many others reading this blog, I’d wager). These things are all over the popular press lately, and in some respects we as an entomological community should be happy this topic is getting the attention it deserves. The expansion of the spotted lanternfly into Ohio and Indiana this summer made national headlines, as did the renaming of Lymantria dispar. Lately, stories of the Joro spider (OK, not an insect, but we welcome our arachnological friends with open arms around here) are all over the news, as these big colorful spiders continue to increase in numbers in Georgia (including in my yard) and South Carolina. Management efforts for the giant hornet Vespa mandarinia went viral with some amazing photos, and it’s “Stop the Ant” month in Hawaii as agencies encourage residents to survey for little fire ants using a chopstick and peanut butter. Don’t worry, the old standbys are still here too, like soybean aphid and emerald ash borer.

A few years ago, our esteemed ESA colleague Rob Morrison, Ph.D., wrote a “Top 4 Most Wanted” blog post highlighting some of the worst invasive insects in the U.S. I recently looked back on that list, wondering if we’d made any progress. Folks, I’ve got good news and bad news.

First, the bad news. Spotted lanternfly, spotted-wing drosophila, and brown marmorated stink bug are still hexapodal menaces in this country, causing billions of dollars in economic impacts and countless bouts of mental anguish to those trying to get them out of their homes, off their clothes, and out of their food. Yes, we’ve made amazing progress on the management of these pests, with teams of great researchers making huge strides forward in the detection, management, and damage mitigation of these pests. So, while these pests are still here (and here to stay) the news isn’t all bad, because we are making solid progress.

Ready for some good news? The Khapra beetle is still not established in the U.S.! It was at one point but was successfully eradicated. Vigilance in our agricultural import security is crucial to keep this pest away. And that vigilance starts with folks working at our ports of entry, including our colleagues at USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS). Some readers are likely well-versed in how APHIS operates, what they do, and collaborative opportunities; others, not so much. To that end, the Entomological Society of America Plant-Insect Ecosystems Section is hosting a four-part webinar series with APHIS colleagues this fall that will dive into the ins and outs of this important agency.

Please check out our upcoming webinar series—beginning tomorrow, October 6—that will highlight the regulatory process, risk assessment, and detection strategies for invasive species here and abroad. These webinars will give an inside look into what APHIS does, how it works, and how you can collaborate with (or work for!) this agency. Preventing and managing invasive species takes a collective effort, so join us to learn how you can help.

Learn More: Invasive Species Webinar Series

  1. PPQ Authority and Regulatory Process – The Cornerstones of Safe Trade,” October 6, 2021
  2. The PPQ Safeguarding Continuum: Part I,” November 10, 2021
  3. The PPQ Safeguarding Continuum: Part II,” November 16, 2021
  4. Part IV details to come

Entomological Society of America

David Coyle, Ph.D., is an assistant professor in the Department of Forestry and Environmental Conservation at Clemson University. Twitter/Instagram/TikTok: @drdavecoyle. Email: dcoyle@clemson.edu.

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