What is in this article?:
- Many non-native pests, from fire ants to slithery, slimy worm-like creatures, have come into the U.S. and made themselves at home, often causing widespread economic damage and other disruptions to life and commerce.
- There are more than 1,700 significant insect pest species in the U.S. Half or more have been introduced in one way or another.
Brown marmorated stinkbugs are among non-native insects that have found a home in the U.S. Homeowners in the northeast U.S. tell tell of sweeping out five-gallon buckets full of the insects, which can damage fruit and landscape plants. —Rutgers University photo
'Kudzu bug' damages soybeans
• Bean plataspid: “This pest, also called kudzu bug, was found in Georgia in 2009, and is reported to cause losses of as much as 14 percent in soybeans, and could potentially be a problem across the South. It will also come into homes in the fall.”
• Chili thrips: “This one is in Florida, Alabama, and Louisiana, and is likely in Mississippi, although we don’t know if has become established. It can be very damaging to roses, vegetables, fruits, and row crops. It has the potential to become a big deal if it gets established in the state.”
• European wood wasp: “It has been attacking pines and softwood conifers in the northeast. It will attack slash and loblolly pines, which are widely planted in Mississippi. It can devastate entire plantations, and if it becomes established here growers will have to do a good job of thinning trees to promote more vigorous growth to allow the trees to resist the pest.”
• Walnut twig beetle: “Already in Tennessee, it kills black walnut trees. We think it came in from Colorado, where it existed in other walnut species.”
• Granulate ambrosia beetle: “We already have this pest, which bores into the trunk of saplings less than three years old and pushes out frass. Just 10 of them can kill a small tree. We’ve had a lot of calls about from peach growers about this pest.”
• Red bay ambrosia beetle: “It has already killed most of the red bay trees in Georgia and South Carolina. It also attacks sassafras and Florida growers are concerned that it could be a problem in avocados.”
• Crape myrtle aphids, azalea lace bugs, and camellia tea scale: “These are pests of ornamentals widely planted in Mississippi, and can cause varying damage. A common means of introduction is via nursery plants.”
• Mediterranean fruit fly: “Not a problem in Mississippi, it is a major concern for growers in Florida and California, which have carried out extensive eradication programs. It has also been seen in Gulf coastal areas.”
• Balsam wooly adelgid: “A destructive pest of Fraser firs, it and the hemlock wooly adelgid, have had a huge impact on the landscape of the Smoky Mountains, with great swaths of dead and dying trees.”
• Emerald ash borer: “This one came into Michigan in 200s and has killed millions of trees across the north.”
• Asian bighorned beetle: “Found in New York state in 1996, it bores into non-oak hardwoods and eventually kills them.”
With the increase in global commerce, opportunities have increased for the introduction of many non-native species that can adapt to life in the U.S., Layton says. Some have no predators here and can quickly multiply and overwhelm an ecosystem.
“It’s important that we remain on the alert for these invaders. You never know when one will have the potential to be the next boll weevil, or even worse.”