Take steps to keep invasive species from harming Middle Georgia

March 13, 2013 

A young man who wanted to learn to make good decisions asked a wise, older person the secret to making good decisions. The older person quickly answered, “To make good decisions, you need practical experience.” Next the young man wanted to know how to gain experience. The answer was, “By making bad decisions.”

Actually, this saying comes from a quote by Mark Twain. “Good decisions come from experience, and experience comes from bad decisions.” I have noticed that many of my problems are due to my prior decisions. The idea sounded good at the time, but I did not anticipate the outcome.

Our landscape is evidence to this truth. We actually have imported many of our problems from other places. We imported kudzu from Japan to prevent soil erosion. Fire ants accidently entered the United States through the port of Mobile, Ala. Privet was once planted as a common landscape plant before it escaped and took over many natural areas.

These are what we call “invasive species.” Once they arrive in our area, they often lack the natural controls on their population that kept them in check back home. As a result, their numbers increase rapidly, causing problems. They displace or attack native vegetation and are often hard to control. Some invasive insects can transmit plant diseases.

We now take measures to prevent the introduction of new invasive pests. Inspectors watch for exotic pests at our borders, and if we detect new pests, we try to eradicate or manage them. However, the best control is to prevent them from ever showing up. And this is something we all can help do.

One major method of preventing tree-destroying, invasive pests from traveling involves fire wood. Even though most firewood is dry, it can harbor pests that can attack trees. The emerald ash borer and the walnut twig beetle are now in Tennessee. The borer kills ash trees and the twig beetle spreads the thousand-cankers disease to black walnuts. The red bay ambrosia beetle along the coast can kill bays and other trees. These pests can be moved to new locations in or on firewood.

Joe LaForest with the University of Georgia Center for Invasive Species has some recommendations to reduce the spread of pests in firewood. Buy firewood locally. Try not to move firewood more than about 10 miles from its source. Do not take firewood on your camping trip -- buy local wood there. You may take a pest from your home to infect a National Forest or a state park. Also, do not bring wood home with you -- burn it or leave it there. For more information visit: http://tinyurl.com/b7s9ejf.

Other ways you can prevent the spread of invasive pests include:

• Clean hiking boots, waders, boats and other recreational equipment after a trip. It is best to clean on the site where you played to help leave the pests there.

• Do not dump fish bait or unwanted pets into the wild. They may look little and harmless when small but can cause big problems later.

• Learn to identify invasive species and remove them from your land. Some exotic invasives should be reported to the Center for Invasive Species. Several smartphone apps from the center can help you -- www.bugwood.org

The “What’s Invasive” app helps you identify invasive insects and plants. The “Firewood Buddy” app was actually developed for Oregon, but it describes pests found in firewood and has fire building tips. Another app, “Southeast Early Detection Network” allows you to map and report invasives that you have found. The information is sent to state specialists who can verify the find. The info you submit may become part of a database of invasive plant information.

If you want to learn more about managing invasive pests, visit www.invasive.org. Also see this article where I found much of this info: http://tinyurl.com/9wlypvg. By preventing invasive pests you reduce future problems for yourself and gardeners yet to come.

Remember to visit the Master Gardeners of Central Georgia Spring Plant Sale at the Macon Farmers Market on Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Willie Chance works with the University of Georgia Center for Urban Agriculture and helps to train the turf and landscape industry.

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