I’m talking about the plant (Gypsophila paniculata), not actual babies, BTW.
I was recently reminded that a lot of folks don’t know that Baby’s Breath is a nasty, invasive plant in the US. Oddly enough, it was because I bought soap. They make this statement on their package:
“our hypo-allergenic bar soap …comes in 100% post consumer recycled packaging imbedded [sic] with Baby’s Breath seeds. Plant the carton in soil, water and watch your plants grow.”
Post consumer packaging–Yay!
But the bit about planting Baby’s Breath–I think I can channel Kirk here for a minute: “NOOOOOOO!”
Please, do not do that.
This is what happens when people think about being green, but don’t think things all the way through.
Baby’s Breath is a plant originally from Siberia and Eastern Europe. It is changing Michigan’s dune ecosystem in destructive ways. Because it has a very deep taproot (up to 12 feet!!), it stabilizes sand dunes and prevents them from the natural ebb and flow as seasons and storms pass. This taproot also lets the plants outcompete native plants, many of which have disappeared from our dunes.
So: pretty and EVIL.
A wonderful resource on finding good (i.e, well-behaved native plants) for your garden is at PlantWise. They even have an “invasive translator” that provides alternative suggestions to invasive non-native garden plants. Check it out!
More info about the Great Lakes Barrens Ecosystem.
Oh, and if you’d like to contact Pure & Natural Soaps and tell them to STOP distributing invasive weed seed…they are apparently owned by Dial. Their contact phone number is listed on the package as 1-877-711-8188.
I have always loved Michael Perry’s great line from Truck:
“Seed catalogs are responsible for more unfulfilled fantasies than Enron and Playboy combined.”
Before you do any ordering, why not check out this Lepidopteran Ornamental Host Plant Guide!
“Landscaping paradigms have promoted the use of alien ornamentals over native plants with ornamental value for over a century. The bias toward landscaping with alien ornamentals has been so complete that the first trophic level in suburban/urban ecosystems throughout U.S. is now dominated by plant species that evolved elsewhere….
The following list is our attempt to categorize native and alien plant genera in terms of their ability to support insect herbivores…. We did this by ranking all native plant genera (woody and herbaceous) in terms of the number of Lepidoptera species recorded using them as host plants. Our hope is that this ranking will be used as one of the criteria for plant selections in managed and unmanaged landscapes by restoration ecologists, landscape architects and designers, land managers, and homeowners.”
There are a *lot* of invasive insects out there, and a new record for the Giant Resin Bee was just submitted for Kansas. It is pretty big (about 1 inch in length/24mm), and was first discovered in North Carolina in 1994. It’s a solitary Asian bee, and it isn’t known quite how it arrived in the Eastern US.
Like most of the leaf-cutting bees, it is a solitary bee that is a cavity nester, and will only sting when grabbed or squished.
For now, it doesn’t seem to be having much of an impact on native bee populations, other than competing for nesting spaces and food. Mostly, it seems like people just don’t have enough information to say if it’s having an impact.
Are you sensing a “we don’t know” theme here?
BTW, the report of the bee is published in a new online, open-access journal called ZooKeys, which hopes to speed up and make more available taxonomic info:
“Publishing taxonomic and systematics studies in the digital era faces major challenges and requires new approaches, many of which are currently stimulating spirited discussions amongst taxonomists and systematists. New amendments to the International Code of Zoological Nomenclature are expected to regulate electronic publishing of new taxa and create a standard form for their registration (ZooBank). Responding to a perceived need, this editorial announces establishment of ZooKeys – a new online and print journal in zoological taxonomy and systematics, which aims to quickly respond and adapt to the newest developments in taxonomic publishing.”
Image from Johnny N. Dell, Bugwood.org
And from Milwaukee, some unhappy insect news:
Mick Skwarok, a spokesman for the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection, also said the agency will order a quarantine of Ozaukee County, probably Washington County and potentially other counties before the end of the week as a first step in trying to stop the invasive pest.
The agency is meeting with the U.S. Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service on the quarantine, a tactic used by other states when outbreaks have occurred.
About 750 million trees are at risk in Wisconsin.
Pretty much everything you would want to know about EAB can be found at the Emerald Ash Borer portal.
A brand new paper out in the journal Environmental Entomology describes a possible new method to trap the beetles, using chemicals that their host plant (Ash trees) release:
“In a field test comparing and combining Phoebe oil with Manuka oil, Phoebe oil-baited traps caught significantly more beetles than either Manuka oil-baited traps or unbaited traps.”
The full title of the paper is:
Development of a Host-Based Semiochemical Lure for Trapping Emerald Ash Borer Agrilus planipennis (Coleoptera: Buprestidae)
There is also some bad news in this same issue of the journal–evidence that Japanese Beetles feed plants grown under high CO2 conditions laid more eggs, and lived longer. Damn it.
“Females consuming elevated CO2 foliage laid approximately twice as many eggs as females fed foliage grown under ambient conditions….Although the precise mechanism is unclear, by altering components of leaf chemistry other than sugar content, elevated CO2 may increase populations of Japanese beetles and their impact on crop productivity.”
Also–if you see ads on this page (and you probably will) I have no connection with those. They seem to have multiplied out of control recently. I am investigating getting them stopped, or moving (UGH!) to a new host.
Yesterday, I posted a new episode in the “Ask an Entomologist” series. My regular readers (we’re up to 8!) were probably thinking “Gosh, why is Bug-girl writing this long post? Isn’t she hugely overworked at her new job?”
The answer is yes, I am very stretched right now. (Urk!)
I finished that post on pheromones (it had been a draft since last fall) because something silly annoyed me very, very much. I wrote that post to provide the background to the smack I’m about to deliver today.
What motivated me? There is a huge outcry in California…because they are planning to spray pheromones for light brown apple moth (LBAM).
“Officials claim no “adverse” effects are expected when aerial dissipation of vast quantities of CheckMate OLR-F and LBAM-F will be sprayed over the Bay Area beginning as early as June. Tell that to hundreds of residents of Santa Cruz and Monterey counties who have reported health problems from last years coating.”
Errr..what? Pheromones are about as safe as you can get! They are naturally occurring compounds that are used in insect sexual communication. Most consider them a type of biological control.
As I explained yesterday, insect sex pheromones are used in tiny amounts (0.0001 microlitres still gets a rise out of my males). The application rate for CheckMate is 0.65 fluid ounces per acre. I’ll say that again:
Less. Than. One. Ounce. Per. Acre.
So, rather than using broad-spectrum pesticides, the state is using unique natural compounds specific to two pest species. And this is grounds for a petition and multiple protest sites? Their reaction can be best summarized as “OMG there are chemicals!!”
Interestingly, the very same blogger that sounds the alarm above, 6 months earlier, detailed the threat to California agriculture:
“The state’s agriculture industry faces $100′s of millions in losses if this interloper gets a more serious foothold in the agricultural zones of the Central Valley, and already nursery stock & cut flowers from 8 Bay Area & Northern California counties are quarantined and not allowed to ship interstate. “
What will be the consequence if this spray is halted? As mentioned in the quote above, LBAM, an introduced species, could become permanently established in California, and cause a lot of people to loose a lot of money. And then REAL pesticides will be used, in considerably larger quantities than this pheromone spray.
Have we really progressed to a point where any chemical use at all is suspect? I’m afraid so: Dihydrogen oxide is a good example. I’m sure it’s totally a coincidence that it was also in California that a county almost banned this compound in 2004:
“The city councillors of Aliso Viejo in Orange County, California, are well-meaning, socially responsible people. And when they came across the huge threat posed to their constituents by dihydrogen monoxide they did what any elected official should do: they took steps to protect their community. A motion due to go before the city legislature proposed banning the potentially deadly substance from within the city boundaries.”
This backlash to pheromone use reminds me very much of individuals refusing to be vaccinated for selfish (and unfounded) reasons, and harming a larger group.
California is a very, very strange place. I will now resort to the stereotypical Midwestern comment:
I’m actually talking about this vine, not a specific situation. It’s all over the place at my new job, and it needs to be removed. Unfortunately, many of our volunteers are….folks of a certain age. And digging up vines in the woods is not the sort of thing you want to set a pack of septuagenarians onto. So, I’m trying to convince a service group they want to come down and yank it up for us.
Bittersweet was introduced to the US as an ornamental (sound familiar?) in the 1860s. Some background from the Alien Plant Working Group:
“Oriental bittersweet is a vigorously growing vine that climbs over and smothers vegetation which may die from excessive shading or breakage. When bittersweet climbs high up on trees the increased weight can lead to uprooting and blow-over during high winds and heavy snowfalls. In addition, Oriental bittersweet is displacing our native American bittersweet (Celastrus scandens) through competition and hybridization.“
Most publications I see suggest Roundup is successful at control–can anyone attest to that first hand? I’m skeptical it will be that easy, since bittersweet is so woody. But we have over 20 acres to deal with, so…a little chemical control would be welcome.
Frustratingly, seeds apparently persist for 2-3 years after removal, so this is a long term project. And, of course, if our neighbors don’t remove their vines…
*beats head on desk*
[Photo from Invasives.org]
The latest edition of Science Express (advance copies of papers that will be published in Science) has some interesting news about how one species of whitefly has been so successful. Basically, they succeed because they’re slutty.
“Asymmetric Mating Interactions Drive Widespread Invasion and Displacement in a Whitefly,” by Shu-Sheng Liu, Jing Xu, Jun-Bo Luan, Lian-Sheng Zang and Yong-Ming Ruan; P. J. De Barro ; and Fang-Hao Wan. Science DOI: 10.1126/science.1149887
” The role of behavioural mechanisms in animal invasions is poorly understood. Here we show that asymmetric mating interactions between closely-related but previously allopatric genetic groups of the whitefly Bemisia tabaci, a haplodiploid species, have been a driving force contributing to widespread invasion and displacement by alien populations….We found that the invader increased frequency of copulation and consequently production of female progeny and at the same time reduced copulation and female production in the indigenous genetic groups during invasion and displacement.”
Worse, these insects are capable of transmitting over 100 kinds of viruses that can cause additional damage to plants. And, just to make things more exciting, there are many different biotypes within this species, and some of them are extremely resistant to pesticides.
This study is a great example of how learning about the behavior of an animal can help us figure out how to control it. When these whiteflies arrive in a new area, they try to interbreed with local whiteflies. (Apparently whiteflies aren’t very good at telling species apart. Or, they really are slutty, and just don’t care.) The result of this interbreeding between types is lots of male whiteflies.
Why? It’s a quirk of genetics. Whiteflies are haplodiploid, which means that males are haploid (have half the regular amount of genetic material) and females are diploid (normal). A female that mates with the “wrong” male will lay unfertilized eggs, which develop into males.
The invasive females respond to this population full of males like they’ve arrived on the set of “Where the Boys Are.” They become more promiscuous, mate more often, and lay more female eggs. More females = more eggs being laid = more whiteflies.
Both males and females are also mating with the locals, and interrupting their reproduction–so the local biotype declines. Pretty soon, the invading whiteflies have taken over.
Hopefully, knowing more about how this particular group of whiteflies are such successful invaders will help us come up with better control methods.