Invasive Species in North Carolina: Exotic Plants, Pests
From stinky trees that can fall on your car to creepy caterpillars that can kill your plants, invasive plants and pests abound in North Carolina.
But as more North Carolinas step out to enjoy the warm, sunny spring and summer weather, there are things you can do to help prevent the spread of invasive species and even help experts. to eradicate some of them.
Here’s what to know about invasive species in and around North Carolina and what you can do to keep them at bay:
What is an invasive species?
Invasive species are defined, according to the Department of Agriculture, as “plants, animals and other living organisms” that are introduced into ecosystems where they are “non-native” or “alien”, which “causes or is likely cause economic damage. or environmental harm or harm to human health.
In an “increasingly global ecosystem,” Kelly Oten, a North Carolina State professor, told the Observer, more invasive species are able to move through “global trade and commerce.”
“It’s one of the unintended consequences of importing materials from all over the world,” said Oten, an assistant professor and extension specialist specializing in forest health.
Invasive species in North Carolina
Common invasive plants and pests in North Carolina include:
- Bradford Pears, while ubiquitous in some suburbs, is both non-indigenous and problematic, says Oten. Their “structures are quite weak”, which means that branches can fall and damage cars, houses and more. They also have an unpleasant odor, and “it basically invades areas” where native plants belong.
- The emerald ash borer is an invasive insect that has been in North Carolina “for eight to nine years now,” Oten said, and is found in 60 counties and counting. The “very fast-spreading” bug is “essentially killing all of our ash trees,” she added. They usually have flat backs and green wing coverts.
- The hemlock woolly aphid, another invasive pest, first hit North Carolina in the 1990s, according to Oten, “and continues to be a problem.” Stink bugs, which are small and sometimes have a cotton-like white coating, are primarily a nuisance in communities with hemlocks.
Some species have not yet been confirmed in North Carolina, but are found in neighboring states and worth looking out for, including:
- The spotted lantern, a “cicada”-sized insect with spotted wings, may look “beautiful”, warns Oten, but can create serious headaches for communities. “It sucks juice from plants, many types of trees and other ornamentals,” she said. “It’s going to be a big, big deal if it comes to North Carolina.” It’s also “one of those bugs that flock around you,” she added.
- The Asian longhorned beetle is another invasive species, and it has been spotted as close as Charleston, South Carolina, Oten said. “It’s the one that attacks a lot of different species, but mainly maple,” she said. “Many people have maple as an ornamental tree. It is also our second most common tree in our native forests. The beetles will “basically just turn a tree into, like, Swiss cheese… The tree collapses.”
And the Joro spiders?
Another pest that has made headlines recently is the Joro spider, a type of spider that has been found in neighboring states. Despite headlines proclaiming them to be “giant” and “poisonous”, experts say they are relatively harmless.
And there have so far been no confirmed reports of them in North Carolina, according to Oten.
“Whether or not it’s invasive is to be determined,” she said.
How to stop invasive species
When it comes to species that potentially encroach on neighboring states, Oten says it’s important for everyone to literally be careful.
“The big two that we want people to watch for, for now, are the spotted lanternfly and the Asian longhorned beetle,” she said. “And the reason for that is that they haven’t been found in North Carolina yet. And that’s the operative word here: yet.
If discovered early, she explained, “response programs” can be launched that could potentially “eradicate” invasive species before they cause major damage to the ecosystem.
To make this process easier, Oten recommends taking a photo of the pest or plant you spot and reporting it to the proper authorities, the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and poolsidepests.com. You can also email email@example.com.
“People say ‘Stop it! Kill it!’ and, yes, it’s great. We want this to happen too, but please, please, please tell someone first and take a good photo,” she said. .
Another step North Carolinas can take to prevent the spread of invasive species, Oten says, is to avoid moving firewood.
“Moving firewood can easily move some of these organisms to new areas,” she said.
If you have any plants or trees on your property that are vulnerable to an invasive species, you should also monitor them closely for symptoms.
“If we’re talking about the emerald ash borer, for example, if someone has an ash tree in their front yard and it’s infested, I would highly recommend treating it with an insecticide that can protect the ash tree or the remove”, Oten mentioned.
And if you have an invasive plant on your hands, there are ways to get rid of it. The NC State Extension Service, for example, has even launched a “Bradford Pear Bounty,” which will provide residents with a replacement tree native to their community to remove a Bradford pear.
The program isn’t in Charlotte yet, Oten said, but there are plans to expand it.