invasive species

A closeup view of spotted wing drosophila, collected by researchers near Traverse City.
Northwest Michigan Horticulture Research Center

A pesky insect that loves to invade fruit has found its way to northern Michigan’s cherry orchards. Scientists have had their eye on spotted wing drosophila since it arrived in the U.S. from Asia in 2008. 

A coffee leaf infected with Hemileia vastatrix, or coffee rust
wikimedia user Smartse /

For many of us, the day doesn’t really start until we polish off that steaming cup of coffee.

But a fungus called "coffee rust” is putting that luxury in jeopardy. It’s attacking coffee plants across Mexico and Central America, and in recent years has caused more than $1 billion in crop losses and cost thousands of workers their jobs.

Two University of Michigan professors have been studying coffee in Mexico for nearly 20 years. They want to understand just how this fungus spreads and how best to shut it down.

Susan Ellis, USDA APHIS PPQ /

It's called a swede midge.

A tiny insect that has the power to cause some big problems for farmers. And now this pest has turned up on several organic farms in Sanilac County.

Zsofia Szendrei is a Michigan State University associate professor who specializes in arthropod farm pests.

She joined us today to talk about the scope of the midge population and what's at stake for Michigan's vegetables. 

Rebecca Williams / Michigan Radio

This week, the 2nd Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in New York ordered the Environmental Protection Agency to write new rules for the ballast water in ships.

Four environmental groups sued the EPA over its current ballast water rule.

Invasive species can get into the Great Lakes in ballast water. Salties are ships that cross the ocean, and lakers are ships that travel only within the Great Lakes. In the decision, the judges criticize the EPA for exempting lakers from certain regulations. 

Rebecca Williams / Michigan Radio

There are more than 180 species in the Great Lakes that are not supposed to be here.

Euan Reavie is a researcher with the University of Minnesota-Duluth.

“Duluth-Superior harbor is the most invaded freshwater port in the world,” Reavie says. “This is kind of the end of the water road for a lot of ships that come in here.”

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

The spotted wing drosophila is a nasty invasive fruit fly that's turning into a nightmare for Michigan berry growers.

Blueberries and cherries are major cash crops in the state.

Kevin Robson is a horticulture specialist with the Michigan Farm Bureau. He says the fly showed up in Michigan five years ago.

Rebecca Williams/Michigan Radio

Invasive species love to sneak a ride on boats.

There are more than 180 exotic species in the Great Lakes, and we help move them around.

Jo Latimore is an outreach specialist with the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife at Michigan State University.

“Research has shown that boats and trailers moving from one lake to another are the number one vector, the number one pathway of invasive species moving from one water body to the next,” she says.

Flickr user PROUSFWSmidwest / Flickr

Each invasive sea lamprey can kill 40 pounds of fish a year in the Great Lakes.

We spend more than $28 million in federal money each year to control the lampreys (according to the Great Lakes Fishery Commission, $20.9 million goes to sea lamprey control measures and more than $3 million is spent on sea lamprey research).

Michael Wagner is an associate professor in the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife at Michigan State University.

He’s one of the researchers at MSU testing out ways to attract sea lampreys into traps.


There’s a tree killer on the loose.

It’s called the Asian longhorned beetle. It has a shiny black body with white spots, and really long antennae.

It’s not known to be in Michigan yet, but the pest has invaded Ohio. So officials want you to keep your eyes open.

Rhonda Santos is with the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.

She says we should be on the lookout for the beetles in our yards and community spaces.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Nayanquing Point Wildlife Area is a tranquil haven just north of Bay City along the Saginaw Bay.   It’s also under siege.

Slowly, an invasive plant is filling its ponds and streams.

The European Frogbit appears harmless. Its small lily pad and delicate white flower was brought to North America as an ornamental pond plant. 

But the Frogbit, like many other non-native plants, would not be contained.


Governor Rick Snyder’s administration has released a first draft of a 30-year strategy for protecting and improving the state’s water resources.

The plan says there are environmental and economic benefits to protecting and improving lakes, rivers, and streams. The plan includes connecting waterways to promote tourism. Also, fixing outdated sewer and drinking water systems.

Purple Loosestrife is an invasive plant found in wetlands and on roadsides throughout much of North America.
user liz west / Flickr

Amos Ziegler has developed a smartphone app that could make it a lot tougher for invasive plants and critters to sneak into our state and get a foothold before they're detected.

Senator Debbie Stabenow
USDAgov / Creative Commons

U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow, D-MI, and U.S. Rep. Candice Miller, R-MI, have introduced legislation that addresses the threat of Asian carp entering the Great Lakes.

There’s a new report card of sorts out on fish sold commercially from the Great Lakes.

It’s from Seafood Watch. That’s a program at Monterey Bay Aquarium in California.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Update: January 15, 2015:

Gov. Snyder has vetoed the legislation.

Original post:

More than 130 scientists and the state’s environmental groups are calling on Gov. Rick Snyder to veto a bill they call anti-science. The bill would forbid the Michigan Department of Natural Resources from protecting native wildlife and plants on the pure merits of protecting nature.

  • The bill would prohibit the Department of Natural Resources from managing state lands for biodiversity.
  • It would prohibit the agency from managing forests for restoration.
  • It would end work to eliminate invasive species.
  • It would strike from the law the finding that most losses of biological diversity are the result of human activity.
Brian Roth / Michigan State University

State officials recently updated the list of invasive species banned in Michigan. They added seven species to the list. That means you can’t have them in your possession or move them around.

David Tenenbaum / UW-Madison News

More than 2,500 species of plants, fish and mollusks will be invading the internet soon.

It’s an effort by more than 20 museums and universities around the Great Lakes region (including the University of Michigan, Michigan State University and Central Michigan University). They’re teaming up to digitize their collections of species that are not native to the Great Lakes.

Ken Cameron directs the Wisconsin State Herbarium at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and he’s leading the project. He and his collaborators will be pulling fish and mollusks out of jars and taking dried plants out of drawers, taking photos of them, and uploading them to the online collection along with data about the species. He and his colleagues around the region will be doing this for 1.73 million specimens.

Rebecca Williams / Michigan Radio

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is figuring out new ways to try to block two species of Asian carp — bighead and silver — from getting into Lake Michigan. The Corps also wants to block other aquatic nonnative species from getting into the Lakes from the Mississippi River system.

They’re considering whether to put in new barriers near the Brandon Road Lock and Dam in the Des Plaines River near Chicago. The site is about five miles downstream from a system of electric barriers in the Chicago Ship and Sanitary Canal. Those barriers are essentially the last line of defense against Asian carp in the Chicago area.

“This may be a perfect site to implement a range of different kinds of technologies," says Dave Wethington, a project manager with the Army Corps in Chicago.

He says the Corps could put in barriers that block fish passage into the lock and dam, or more electric barriers. It could also put in special water guns that use pressure waves to deter carp.

A silver carp.
Michigan Sea Grant

ALLEGAN, Mich. - Officials say genetic material of Asian carp has been found in a river in the Kalamazoo River in southwestern Michigan.

The state Department of Natural Resources and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on Tuesday announced DNA from silver carp was detected in one of 200 samples taken in July the Kalamazoo River in Allegan County. The river flows into Lake Michigan.

Officials say the discovery marks the first time so-called environmental DNA for silver carp has been found in Michigan's Great Lakes waters outside of Maumee Bay in Lake Erie. In a statement, the agencies say there's "no evidence that a population of silver carp is established."

The silver carp is one of the Asian species threatening to invade the Great Lakes and compete with native fish for food.

Joi Ito / Flickr

The bass are getting fat.

Lake Michigan was recently recognized as one of the best places in America to fish for bass. The booming fishery is one sign of what might be a major shift of the lake’s food web.

But that change is being driven by an increase in goby, an invasive species. And it could spell trouble for salmon— the most popular sport fish in Lake Michigan.  

Animal Planet

Would you:

A) run away screaming

B) attack them with golf clubs, weed whackers and curling irons, or

C) haplessly fall victim to them as you enjoy a quiet afternoon of fishing with your dog?

The residents of a fictional Michigan town do all of the above in "Blood Lake: Attack of the Killer Lampreys" airing this week on Animal Planet. It's by the same people who brought us "Sharknado."

Watch the trailer below:

Really, it was only a matter of time. With its toothy suction cup for a face and razor sharp tongue, the sea lamprey was a horror movie villain just waiting to shine.

Asian Carp
Kate.Gardner / Flickr

When you hear the words "Asian carp," chances are that nothing good will come to mind.

We know they're big, ugly, lightning-fast, voracious eaters, and a highly invasive species. 

And there are great fears as to what could happen if they decide to make the Great Lakes home. 

Duane Chapman is a research fish biologist for the U.S. Geological Survey. He leads their Asian carp research. Chapman is among scientists who say there has been an up side to all the studies they've been doing since the Asian carp came onto our radar screens. 

He joined today us on Stateside.

*Listen to the full interview above. 

USDA Forest Service

The emerald ash borer is a little shiny green beetle that loves to feast on ash trees. The adult beetles only nibble on the leaves. It's the larvae you've got to watch out for. They munch on the inner bark of the ash tree, and mess with the tree's ability to transport water and nutrients.

The pest has killed tens of millions of ash trees in Michigan alone and tens of millions more in the states and provinces around our region.

Now researchers know a little bit more about how the emerald ash borer ate its way through the state.


TRAVERSE CITY – A group of U.S. senators wants the federal government to move faster on preventing Asian carp from reaching the Great Lakes through waterways in the Chicago area.

Eleven senators from states in the region sent a letter Tuesday to the assistant secretary of the Army, whose office oversees the Army Corps of Engineers. The letter asks a series of questions about when the Corps might begin tasks such as adding barriers at the southernmost lock in the Chicago Area Waterway System.

It also asks what authorization the Corps needs from Congress to move more quickly toward short- and long-term solutions.

The Corps issued a report in January with options for blocking the invasive carp's path to Lake Michigan, but says Congress and regional stakeholders must choose the final plan.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

About a hundred people showed up at a public hearing Tuesday night in Ann Arbor to discuss ways to keep Asian carp from getting into the Great Lakes.

One by one, people took to the microphone to tell the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers the only way to stop the Asian carp is to close the man-made waterways connecting the Great Lakes to the Mississippi River basin.

Asian carp have devastated native fish populations in parts of the Mississippi River basin since first being introduced in the southern United States. Some species of Asian carp were brought in to help keep retention ponds clean in aquaculture and wastewater treatment facilities.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

This week federal officials will talk about the options for preventing Asian carp from reaching Lake Michigan.

People and organizations will get a chance to have their say about which option they support. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will host meetings in Ann Arbor on Tuesday night and in Traverse City on Thursday.

The meetings are two of six scheduled this month, from Louisiana to Pennsylvania. Officials will also take written comments through early March.

Dan O'Keefe / Michigan Sea Grant

This week, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers issued a study about what might be done to keep those invasive Asian carp out of the Great Lakes.

It took seven years and that was a rush job after some members of Congress accused the Corps of dragging its feet.

The study outlines eight scenarios.

User: Brother O'Mara / flickr

Lawmakers kick off 2014 with a budget surplus

"The state Legislature has kicked off its 2014 session. One of the first big debates of the new year will be about what to do with a projected budget surplus. Early estimates suggest the state will have hundreds of millions of dollars more than it expected," Rick Pluta reports.

State regulators investigate utilities' response to massive power outage

"State regulators will investigate how Michigan’s two largest electric utilities responded to a massive power outage last month. State regulators will not be investigating how the Lansing Board of Water and Light handled the same outage. They do not have jurisdiction over municipal utilities," Steve Carmody reports.

Polar vortex could stave off invasive species

"It might be difficult to think of this week's deep freeze as anything good, but scientists say the extreme cold could slow the migration of invasive species and kill some of the insect pests that have ravaged forests. Heavy ice could also prevent erosion and protect wetlands along big lakes," the Associated Press reports.

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Michigan officials say after years of planning, they're ready to put in place a strategy for controlling the spread of invasive species in the state's waterways.

The plan is described in the annual "State of the Great Lakes" report released Thursday by the Department of Environmental Quality.

Aquatic invaders such as quagga mussels cost the region hundreds of millions of dollars a year.

The newly developed strategy focuses on early detection of new invaders and a rapid response to rein them in.

Steve Maslowski/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Imagine walking down a picturesque beach along Lake Michigan, and stumbling upon the carcasses of dead birds. That’s a very real and unpleasant problem along Lakes Michigan, Huron, Ontario and Erie. (It’s not as big of an issue in Lake Superior because of the lake’s colder water temperatures.)

Loons and other deep-diving birds are suffering from a disease called avian botulism. It’s form of food poisoning that kills wild birds in the Great Lakes ecosystem.