Saturday, January 19, 2013

Invasive species 'boxbug' tries to sneak past APHIS

Gonocerus acuteangulatus (Goeze 1778)
image from British Bugs web site

               Invasive species are all around us. The eat our lunch, they make us sick, and they change our landscapes. Invasive species cost us money...lots of money...some say over 130 billion dollars a year in the United States alone. Most of only get excited about invasive species when they directly and immediately injure us personally.  We remain landscape illiterate convinces that food comes from stores, and clean water from pipes.

               The United States Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (USDA APHIS) works to stave off the introduction and establishment of harmful invasive species.[1] APHIS and its ever-smaller budgets is faced with more "stuff' coming in to US ports each year. And who is APHIS' stakeholder that should be clamoring for increases to protect our pockets, food, and health? Why we the very people who have no clue. Somehow we have the idea that the infrastructure started by Lincoln and enhanced by Presidents through the 1960s now needs no support at all. Our arrogance is only unsurpassed by our inability to see tomorrow.

               If you live in the Mid-Atlantic you already know about the stink bug because it decided to not only cost the fruit industry millions but more importantly for you, because it moved in by the thousands to your personal space and caused you discomfort. So you call on APHIS and demand to know why and then fail to give it the money to prevent the next critter from moving in.

               With little support from the calmly disinterested public (those without stink bugs, pythons, flying fish and rock snot in their lives so far), the dedicated employees of APHIS and its sister organizations ARS and the Forest Service) work to keep the next invader out of your personal space. They work tirelessly to safeguard the United States much like the heroic 'Little Dutch boy' who stuck his finger in a hole in the dike to save his world from certain doom.

              And what has APHIS done lately for you - especially those of you who garden or make your living selling plants? In December, the keen eyes of USDA APHIS port inspectors in Baltimore, Maryland spotted for the first time a Coreid, Gonocerus acuteangulatus (Goeze 1778). G. acuteangulatus, commonly called known as a boxbug in the United Kingdom, id a "relatively large reddish-brown squashbug, distinguished from the commoner Coreus marginatus by the narrower abdomen and more pointed lateral extremities of the pronotum. Nymphs have a green abdomen." The website, British Bugs, goes on to describe this new invader to the US as historically very rare in the British Isles and known only from Box Hill in Surrey, where it feeds on box trees (boxwoods). British Buigs continues its report noting that the "bug is expanding its range and now occurs widely in the south-east of England and beyond. It is exploiting different foodplants, and has been found on hawthorn, buckthorn, yew and plum trees." Reports from England report that it seems prefers berry bearing species such as hollies and ivies.[2]  The boxbug is also reported as a major problem for hazelnut production in Italy.[3]

               APHIS also reports that the recently intercepted boxbug, G. acuteangulatust is a primary pest of boxwood, but is also recorded feeding on important landscape and garden plants such as hawthorn, buckthorn, yew and plum trees. According to a report in the Washington Times, the boxbug, referred to as a squashbug in the article, was "destined for Eldersburg, Md.  CBP (U.S. Customs and Border Protection) issued an Emergency Action Notification to the importer requiring the shipment to be re-exported or destroyed."[4]

               The possible introduction of this invasive pest would add to the litany of invasive species problems facing farmers and gardeners in the United States. We, all of us, should be actively supporting enhanced funding for USDA APHIS. It is worth noting that APHIS also quietly protects natural areas from invasive species that creep through our trade routes into our ports and out into our fields and woods.

[1] The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service is a multi-faceted Agency with a broad mission area that includes protecting and promoting U.S. agricultural health, regulating genetically engineered organisms, administering the Animal Welfare Act and carrying out wildlife damage management activities.  These efforts support the overall mission of USDA, which is to protect and promote food, agriculture, natural resources and related issues.

To protect agricultural health, APHIS is on the job 24 hours a day, 7 days a week working to defend America’s animal and plant resources from agricultural pests and diseases.  For example, if the Mediterranean fruit fly and Asian longhorned beetle, two major agricultural pests, were left unchecked, they would result in several billions of dollars in production and marketing losses annually.  Similarly, if foot-and-mouth disease or highly pathogenic avian influenza were to become established in the United States, foreign trading partners could invoke trade restrictions and producers would suffer devastating losses.
[3] Vaccino et al. 2008. Detection of damage due to bug feeding on hazelnut and wheat by biochemical techniques. Bulletin of Insectology 61 (1): 189-190.
[4] Jerry Seper. December 12, 2012. ‘Squashbug’ nabbed at Baltimore Harbor. The Washington Time. [accessed January 19, 2013]
"The importer plans to fumigate.
Upon Friday’s discovery of the bug, CBP forwarded the specimen to a USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service Plant Protection and Quarantine entomologist for identification. CBP agriculture specialists work closely with USDA to protect the nation’s agriculture resources against the introduction of foreign plant pests and animal diseases.
CBP agriculture specialists have extensive training and experience in the biological sciences and agricultural inspection. On a typical day, they inspect tens of thousands of international air passengers, and air and sea cargoes nationally being imported to the United States and seize 4,291 prohibited meat, plant materials or animal products, including 470 insect pests."

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Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Native (mostly) Alternatives to Ornamental Invasives Jan 8 2013 Noon EST free webniar

Native Alternatives to Ornamental Invasives
Tue, January 8, 12pm – 1pm  Free registration limited "seating"
Native (or non invasive exotic) Alternatives to Ornamental Invasives looks at a some well know Eastern North American landscape stalwarts that have become invasive escapees from the garden, and some alternatives that can be substituted for them in managed landscapes. the webinar looks at current design principles and historic dynamics that effect garden species choices. 

Please click on more details below to find the link to register at: