American Invasive Species Hall of Fame, Part 2

Sequels are rarely as good as the original. But here are five other invasive species for the American Invasive Species Hall of Fame.

You can see the top five from last week here.

Burmese python (Python bivittatus)

Native to Southeast Asia and one of the largest snake species in the world, pythons became a hot (and legal) item in the pet trade in the mid-1990s. When snake enthusiasts from South Florida realized that their full-sized python could be 12 feet long and 200 pounds or more, pet owners took what they thought was the merciful route of releasing the snakes into the friendly habitat of the Everglades.

With no predators and a diet of rodents, livestock, birds, and possibly even a rare Florida panther, the Burmese python has settled at the top of the Everglades food chain. The United States finally banned the import of pythons in 2012.

Everglades record pythons exceeded 18 feet and 400 pounds. They have been found well north of the Glades and along the Florida Panhandle. Despite well-organized python “roundups”, the snakes are likely permanent residents of Florida.

Zebra mussels (Dreissena polymorpha)

First detected in North America in Michigan’s Lake St. Clair in 1988, the thumbnail-sized snail is believed to have hitched a ride in a ship’s ballast from its sea home Caspian.

Zebra mussels prefer fast-moving water and often congregate at the intake pipes of factories, power plants, or municipal waterworks.

Once established, zebra mussels are difficult to eradicate. Constant inspections are necessary to avoid water intake stoppages due to clogged pipes. Well established in the Great Lakes region, the zebra mussel grows westward in rivers and streams. They also conquered parts of the Ohio and Tennessee river systems.

Asian carp (Hypophthalmichthys molitrix and several other subspecies)

Juvenile Asian carp are sensitive to loud noises. An outboard motor will send the fish into a frenzy, surging up to 10 feet out of the water.

Credit: Regional Invasive Carp Coordinating Committee

In the generally unfunny world of invasive species, Asian carp can provide a little comic relief.

Mainstays of some home aquariums, Asian carp can outgrow their home, with a maximum of nearly 20 pounds. Released by aquarium owners into rivers and streams, carp quickly rose to the top of food chains in sections of the Mississippi and Illinois river systems, where they quickly outcompete native species for herbs. and plankton.

Also, a fish farm in Arkansas brought in carp in the 1970s to help clean algae from their tanks. Once the job was done, the carp were released back into the wild.

Did I say they were funny? Funny how?

Juvenile carp are sensitive to loud noises. An outboard motor will send the fish in a frenzycrossing up to 10 feet out of the water.

The long held angler’s prayer that fish will literally jump into your boat can come true with Asian carp.

There is a concerted effort to keep carp from overtaking the important Great Lakes commercial fishery.

Hemlock Woolly Adelgid (Adelges tsugae)

First noticed near Richmond, Virginia in the 1950s, this little ball of white fur has a voracious appetite for sap from the eastern hemlock.

Over the following decades, the aphid’s range reached into the hemlock stands of the Appalachians. Stately trees died from the crown down, with the understory also taking the hit. Streams once cooled by the shade of giant trees are now baked.

Eastern hemlocks range from Georgia to Maine and Nova Scotia, and west to Wisconsin. The aphid hasn’t quite caught up yet, but with no practical defenses, natural or man-made, they’re on their way.

Brown tree snake (Boiga irregulis)

Amid the death and heartache of World War II, there was a steady trade of just about everything to just about every corner of the Pacific. This is probably how the brown tree snake hitchhiked on cargo ships from its home in Indonesia to Guam.

Related: American Invasive Species Hall of Fame Part 1

With no natural predators, the brown tree snakes had a great time. Even iconic species like the flightless Guam rail have gone extinct.

When the last eggs disappeared, the snakes had little trouble finding more food. They covered the island. Their four-foot bodies stretched from power line to power line. The island’s power grid ran on a surplus World War II generator. Every two weeks, brown tree snakes cut off Guam’s power.

In addition to invading Guam, brown tree snakes are semi-aquatic and mildly venomous. There are a few reported cases of snakebites on toilets.

Honorable Mentions

Our readers threw in their own suggestions.

Norway hemlock and Norway rats; wild pigs and feral domestic cats; mesquite, quagga mussels; Asian longhorned beetles; emerald ash borers; mitten crabs and snails (giant wolf and pink wolf).

But consider this: several people have pointed out that with an unparalleled record of destroying oceans, forests, skies, etc., one species is by far the most destructive and disruptive.


Contact Peter Dykstra at @pdykstra or if you have any suggestions for future invasive icons.

.Dykstra is our weekend editor and columnist. His opinions do not necessarily represent those of Environmental Health News, The Daily Climate or the publisher Environmental Health Sciences.

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