Will this cold winter kill off invasive pests?

Emerald ash borer

Photo: Debbie Miller, USDA Forest Service, Bugwood.org

Maybe there’s a bright side to this historic winter in the Northeast U.S.  This cold weather is likely killing unwanted insects such as the emerald ash borer and the hemlock woolly adelgid. The emerald ash borer has spread throughout the northeast and Canada, damaging and killing ash trees in its wake.  The hemlock woolly adelgid, first detected in Ohio in 2012, threatens eastern hemlock and Carolina hemlock in the Eastern U.S.

Will it kill off the insects entirely? Unfortunately, no. Some insects will survive, somewhere, somehow. In time, the invasive pests will become established again. But a cold, hard winter like this will knock down populations and slow them down.

The headlines of this article from the philly.com reads, “Please, polar vortex, ice these garden pests.”  The article is about the brown marmorated stink bug, a pest of agricultural crops, landscapes and a nuisance in our homes. Unfortunately, stink bugs might be keeping warm in our attics and cracks in our walls.

Read more

> Please, Polar Vortex, Ice These Garden Pests (philly.com)

> Celebrating Deep Freeze, Insect Experts See a Chance to Kill Off Invasive Species (NY Times)

“Seeds on Katy Perry’s album triggers biosecurity alert from [Australia] Department of Agriculture”

This was the headline from Australia ABC News.

Katy Perry’s latest CD, Prism, includes packaging paper embedded with wildflower seeds (think green packaging).

General policy is that live plant material (including seeds) should not be transported across countries and certainly continents, and in many cases is regulated and/or illegal.  Australia enforces strict quarantine measures on the movement of plant material into the continent.

An internet search for the words “Katy Perry seeds Prism” will turn up a lot of headlines.  A subheadline from dailymail.co.uk explains the reasoning: “Fears they could be the host of a plant pathogen of biosecurity concern.”

It’s totally serious. Seeds, fruits and plants can harbor viruses, bacteria, fungi and other pests.  There are countless examples of invasive pests – Dutch elm disease, chestnut blight, emerald ash borer, Asian longhorned beetle, to name a few – which have been transported inadvertently across continents and now threaten native species.  The economic losses total in the billions of dollars.

It might sound far-fetched, but these regulations have a sound scientific basis.  > More info