National Invasive Species Awareness Week

Author: Mosquito Squad of Greater Washington DC

No one likes to think about pests like Japanese beetles, stink bugs, or fire ants, but species like these play a much bigger role in our lives than you might expect. They are invasive species, and they wreak havoc in our communities because they don’t belong here. This week, the nation is paying close attention to these critters.

National Invasive Species Awareness Week (NISAW) kicks off the third Sunday of February each year. This week-long campaign is aimed to raise awareness about invasive species and find ways to eradicate them in local, national, and international ecosystems. Science and conservation organizations all over the country participate in this event, and we’re spreading the word so you can, too!

Why Are Invasive Species Education and Awareness Important?

According to the National Invasive Species Information Center, an invasive species is a species that is non-native to the ecosystem and can cause economic or environmental harm, or harm to human health. Without proper measures to keep them under control, these species can have devastating effects on native ecosystems, threaten agricultural food production, and cause serious health threats to humans.

A little insect like a gypsy moth may seem harmless enough on its own, but it is highly destructive, and in large groups, they can defoliate entire swaths of forest. So, it’s important to be aware of the problems caused by invasive species so that we can all do our part in managing them.

What Can We Do To Prevent Spread of Invasive Species?

NISAW is designed to get citizens involved in invasive species control, so the group has provided a handy list of ways we can help authorities in their efforts to eradicate these pests. Here are 8 simple things you can do:

1. Learn About Invasive Species

To help control invasive species, you first need to be able to identify them. Take some time to learn about the most prominent species, especially the ones in your region.

The following are just a few of the most concerning insect species in Virginia as well as invasive insect species in Maryland.

The Sirex woodwasp is the only species of woodwasp that aggressively attacks healthy trees. Females inject a toxic fungus and mucus into trees when they lay eggs, which eventually kill the tree. This insect has caused major damage in pine plantations.

If you have a persistent issue with wasps, ground bees, or carpenter bees, we offer stinging insect services.

The emerald ash borer, a wood-boring beetle, has killed more than 40 million ash trees in the US, posing a huge threat to forests.

The imported fire ant is a stinging insect that is known to attack and sometimes kill newborn animals, including domestic pets. They also destroy crops like corn and soybeans.

The Asian tiger mosquito, a resilient species of mosquito, can lay and hatch eggs in very small amounts of water. This invasive mosquito species spread some diseases, including West Nile Virus, and unlike other species, they bite during the day.

If you notice your yard and property are being overtaken by the Asian tiger mosquito, we can help with our mosquito treatment packages.

The brown marmorated stink bug (BMSB) is nearly identical to the native stink bug, but it can reproduce at a much faster rate. It attacks a wide variety of fruits and plants, such as apples, peaches, and citrus. It has caused significant losses in Pennsylvanian orchards.

Wondering how to deal with the Brown Marmorated Stink Bug? If you have a BMSB infestation, we offer stink bug elimination packages.

The Japanese beetle, which is destructive to foliage, has become the number one turf-grass pest in the US, causing millions of dollars in damage.

To find out more about these species, as well as other animals and plants that are unwanted in our region, visit the National Invasive Species Information Center. Through research, you can learn to recognize common invasive pests, and you can even report them through various citizen science initiatives. Check out Cornell University’s Invasive Species Projects to get involved with spotting and monitoring invasive species.

2. Learn About Native Species.

As important as it is to recognize invasive species, it’s just as crucial to be able to identify native species. Read field guides, do some research online, or even visit a botanic garden or nature center to become familiar with native plants and animals so that you’ll know a good guy when you see one!

3. Don’t Help Invasive Species Spread.

Without even knowing it, you could be helping to disperse invasive species in your region. If you’re exploring the outdoors, always clean your gear to avoid accidentally transporting an invasive species to a new habitat. Make sure to thoroughly wash, drain, and dry hiking boots, waders, boats, boating equipment, bicycles, and off-road vehicles before you take them home. You don’t want to end up bringing any mud, plant debris, or insect larvae with you!

4. Cultivate A Native Garden.

Do yourself and your local ecosystem a favor by replacing non-native plants in your garden with native ones. This will reduce the risk of harmful invasive plants making their way into surrounding natural areas. Also, native plants are hardier and less susceptible to disease, so it’ll be less work for you, too!

Native plants also conserve water, require less maintenance and fertilizer, and they make great habitat for birds, butterflies, and other wildlife. Find out which species you should plant in your garden by consulting the Native Plant Nursery Directory.

When planting, be sure to use mulch and soil products that are certified as “weed-free”. This will help prevent the spread of invasive plants through landscaping.

5. Don’t Release Species Into The Wild.

If you own an aquarium or terrarium, don’t ever release species from your domestic habitats into the wild. If you find undesirable species in your tank, contact authorities instead of handling it yourself. Find out more at Habitattitude.net.

6. Voice, Your Concern To Legislators.

This is an issue that affects all of us, so make your opinion heard by calling or writing a letter to your local government representatives. Explain your concern about the importance of controlling invasive species, and ask that they support smart programs to help the cause. You can use the Common Cause database to find your elected officials.

7. Spread The Word.

After taking the time to educate yourself on these issues, spread awareness even further by telling your friends, family, and neighbors. If you’re feeling inspired, partner with a local government agency or non-profit organization to coordinate an event in your area.

8. Fight These Species In Your Backyard.

We at DC Mosquito Squad always do our part to help eradicate invasive species. If you have a large invasive insect population on your property, contact us to see how we can help you with one of our several outdoor pest control services.