Things Are Not Always As They Appear

Despite the fact that Michigan, as well as the Great Lakes region as a whole, has hundreds of exotic invasive species, the public generally only knows about the headliners – the big ones like Emerald Ash Borer and Asian Carp that get a lot of press because of their widespread or flashy destruction.  But there are several more that do just as much damage without getting the face time and household name recognition.  As a side note, it should be known that not all non-native species are invasive – think about most of the trout species and all of the salmon in the Great Lakes for example.  These are not native to this region, but do not out-compete other species or throw off ecological balance.

Because our existing issues are so diverse, we are constantly on the lookout for new invaders; the ones at our backdoor in nearby states, waiting to pounce on an opportunity to invade a new area.  It is always good to be aware of your surroundings since the key to getting ahead of a potential exotic is early detection.  But if you find something you think doesn’t belong, double-check before you panic.  Things in nature are not always what they seem at first.  There are several native animals and plants that look quite a bit like their exotic counterparts, but hold no threat to us, our yards or the ecosystem.  Below are just a few examples of this look-alike confusion.

Don’t Be Fooled By Emerald Ash Borer Look-Alikes – Michigan State University Extension

Aquatic Invasive Plant, Hydrilla – New York Invasive Species

 

Massachusetts Introduced Pests Outreach Blog

Hey – That’s Not ALB!

Over the past couple of weeks, our pest reporting website has been deluged with reports from people who are worried they’ve spotted the dreaded Asian longhorned beetle. Turns out almost all of these reports can be blamed on a look-alike, the whitespotted sawyer:
whitespotted sawyer beetle

The whitespotted sawyer (Monochamus scutellatus) is a native beetle that attacks diseased and damaged pine trees. It emerges from trees earlier in the season than Asian longhorned beetles (“ALB”), which is not expected to be seen in Massachusetts until the end of June. Both beetles are black with white spots and long, black-and-white banded antennae, but sawyers are not as shiny as ALB, they have fewer and duller white markings, and they all have a distinct, white, half-circle marking at the top center of their wing covers. Use this image to compare:
ALB vs WSPS

If you think you’ve seen an Asian longhorned beetle, or you aren’t sure what you’ve seen, you should always report it. Try to get a photo or capture the insect if you can.

Invasive Species Information, MI Department of Agriculture & Rural Development – Giant Hogweed

Examples of Giant Hogweed

How Do You Know If It’s Really Giant Hogweed? A number of common plant species resemble Giant Hogweed, but there are ways to tell them from the real thing. Here are a few guides you may find useful:

If you have seen a plant that appears to be Giant Hogweed and need help identifying it, send an email to MDA-Info@Michigan.gov, along with any pictures, so that the pictures can be examined by professional staff of the Michigan Department of Agriculture & Rural Development. (Email pictures of the whole plant, leaves, flower head, and where the leaf joins the stem.)  You can also call 1-800-292-3939.

Giant Hogweed is a public health hazard that ranks up there higher than poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac in respect to its potential to harm humans. The reason for concern is that the sap from this plant can cause a severe skin reaction known as photo-dermatitis or photo-sensitivity. The reaction can happen up to 48 hours after contact. After coming in contact with the sap, the skin blisters when exposed to sunlight. Contact with the eyes can lead to temporary or possibly permanent blindness. The weed can be especially troublesome for children that may find the long stems attractive to play with. There are accounts from Great Britain about instances where children suffered from severe skin reactions after playing with the hollow stems as pea-shooters, telescopes and even play swords. If you do come into contact with the plant, and especially the sap, you are advised to wash the affected areas immediately, keep the exposed area out of direct sunlight and seek medical advice.

Besides these public health concerns, Giant Hogweed is also reported to be invasive under certain conditions. It does especially well in disturbed soils and also along waterways where seeds can be spread long distances. Large colonies have been known to form from a single plant, where an abundance of seeds coupled with shoots arising from the roots gives rises to dozens of offspring. Weed specialists have reported that once it becomes established, it takes up to five years to completely get rid of a colony due to regrowth from seeds and roots.

This unwanted plant is found on the Federal Noxious weed list. This means that it is illegal to sell or transport it across state lines, a violation punishable by fines. Florida, North Carolina, Oregon and Washington also regulate giant hogweed as a noxious weed.

Giant Hogweed was introduced into North America in the early 1900s. Its native range is Central Asia, although now it now occurs throughout the United Kingdom, Australia, Europe, parts of Canada and the United States. It is suspected to have made its way into this country as an ornamental. Its size made it somewhat of an oddity, and gardeners that wanted something unique imported it.

Giant Hogweed has been confirmed in 11 counties in Michigan:  Branch, Calhoun, Gogebic, Ingham, Jackson, Kalamazoo, Kent, Manistee, Oakland, Ottawa and Saginaw. The rest of Michigan should be watchful for this species. It’s reported distribution in North America includes Maine, Michigan, New York, Pennsylvania and Washington in the U.S. and in the Canadian provinces of British Colombia and Ontario. Small colonies of giant hogweed have recently been found in Indiana, Maryland, Ohio and Vermont where eradication is underway.

If you have seen a plant that appears to be Giant Hogweed and need help identifying it, send an email to MDA-Info@Michigan.gov, along with any pictures, so that the pictures can be examined by professional staff of the Michigan Department of Agriculture & Rural Development. (Email pictures of the whole plant, leaves, flower head, and where the leaf joins the stem.)  You can also call 1-800-292-3939.

A few informative web sites are:

 

But of course, if you see something you think you need to report, by all means do so.  It is better to be safe than sorry.  If you live in or around Michigan, here are a couple of good resources:

Midwest Invasive Species Information Network

Michigan Department of Natural Resources – Invasive Species Specialist Contact List

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