Problematic invasive animal species in Massachusetts
Posted by Tyler
As noted in an earlier article, Massachusetts is an unwilling home to a large variety of invasive plant species. Unfortunately, the problem of invasive species is not restricted to just plants. Invasive animal species can be equally detrimental to the biodiversity and health of an ecosystem. Massachusetts, like most other parts of the world, is now host to dozens of non-indigenous and possibly dangerous animal species. Their numbers include the Zebra Mussel (Dreissena polymorpha ), which was originally from Russia and the Asian Longhorn Beetle (Anoplophora glabripennis ), which likely arrived in the US in the wooden boards that made up shipping crates and pallets.
Zebra Mussels are freshwater molluscs that were first detected in the great lakes region in 1988. With no natural predators to curb their population they quickly spread in all directions. Massachusetts was fortunate in that its waterways remained clear of the problematic animal until 2009. In other areas of the country they spread far faster, arriving California – presumably for the first time – earlier this year. Once present in a lake, stream, or river they quickly multiply, eventually completely covering every surface they can colonize. Their huge numbers affect, among other things, the clarity and organic content of the water and the other types of molluscs and fish that can survive in the area. Additionally, they have a tendency to clog the machinery of water treatment and power plants.
The Asian Longhorn Beetle is a large insect with long white and black antennae that only recently arrived in Massachusetts – although it has been present in the United States for several years. It is known for making its home within a wide variety of trees, including Red Maples, Elms, and Willows. These trees have no natural defense against the unfortunate attentions of the Asian Longhorn Beetles and so infestations are typically fatal for the host plant. This past March, following the discovery of a live beetle in Worcester, Massachusetts, the USDA launched an extensive eradication campaign in Massachusetts. Unfortunately, while such campaigns can be locally effective, the species remains at large throughout much of the northeast and, even optimistically, it will likely take years to exterminate fully (if it is possible to remove it at all).