With third winter hopefully behind us, many of us are seeing signs of spring in our gardens or as we hike in area parks! This means many are preparing to put their gardening gloves on and start tidying up their gardens and yard. Before you bring out the rakes, leaf blowers and wheelbarrows, please consider a request to leave some areas of your property "leaf strewn" and "messy" a little bit longer, and hold off on applying pesticides during these critical migration periods.
With the coming of spring, a variety of native plants are starting to be visible, as are native birds returning from their southern vacation! During the fall months, we had requested homeowners and land managers to leave some leaves and dead branches for habitat and shelter. That brush, log, and leaf litter may now have egg masses from native species such as praying mantis, or overwintering woolly bear caterpillars (Smithsonian, 1999). Over winter, rocks and soil may have moved or shifted, which may also have some insects underneath. By clearing out leaves and logs prematurely, you may be eliminating an important population of local pollinator species needed for your garden, nearby trees, and flowers. These insects are also a food source for returning birds.
Brush, dead logs, and leaf litter also provide shelter for migrating species, as well as snacking points as they rest along their journey! Various amphibians such as salamanders and frogs are trying to reach vernal pools in order to breed or fulfill a critical part of their lifecycle. Vernal pools are temporary and isolated pools of water that are devoid of fish, found in forested areas, experience peak water volumes around spring, and often dry out by the end of summer. As amphibians breath through their skin, chemicals can harm and kill them. Holding off on applying pesticides and herbicides during this time of year can ensure migrating species can safely reach their destination as they pass through your yard.
It is suggested to wait until the temperatures have been consistently warm (50°F) for several days. Tips from the Xerces Society of Invertebrate Conservation include waiting until you need to start mowing your lawns, or are able to plant your tomato plants outside, as by then, pollinator species should also be out and about (Wheeler, 2017 ). If you need to clear away brush, to give species more time to hatch, consider moving leaves or brush to one area instead of bagging leaves, burning, or composting (Hudson, 2019). If this article has inspired you to create a more reptile or amphibian friendly yard, DNR has a site with some tips and suggestions for how to attract reptiles and amphibians, found here.
Hudson, G. 2019. Remember to 'Bee-Friendly' as you clean up your garden! University of Minnesota Extension. Date Accessed: April 5, 2021.
Sargent, M.S and Carter, K.S., ed. 1999. Managing Michigan Wildlife: A Landowners Guide. Michigan United Conservation Clubs, East Lansing, MI. 297pp. Date Accessed: April 4th, 2021.
Smithsonian. 1999. Where Do Insects Go in the Winter? Date Accessed: April 4th, 2021. Link:
Wheeler, J. 2017. Don’t spring into garden cleanup too soon! Date Accessed: April 4th, 2021.
A brand new species was recently added to Michigan's invasive species watch list! Beech leaf disease (not to be confused with Beech bark disease), while not yet detected in Michigan, is present in nearby states. Please read on for more information about this species.
We are still in the process of learning about just what exactly beech leaf disease is, however it is thought to be associated with the presence of a microscopic nematode (Litylenchus crenatae). Carta et al. (2020) have published some microscopy images in their paper, which also contains pictures of beech leaf disease symptoms. Thus far, mainly American beech trees have been impacted, but disease has been reported on European beech trees and other ornamental beech trees in nurseries located in USA (Invasive Species Centre, 2021).
This is a relatively new species that was first discovered in 2012 in Ohio but has since expanded to Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and the province of Ontario. It's so new that as of today, even Wikipedia only has one sentence on it! The worms are about 2mm long, and have been found in Asian beech trees in Asia (but has not been found to kill trees in Asia). Popkin (2019) summarizes the current debate on if and how these worms "may or may not" kill beech trees.
One of main symptoms of diseased trees is the darkening of tissue between the veins of the leaf. Other symptoms can include puckered or curled leaves (DNR, 2021). The best time to observe symptoms when leaves are out up until fall.
Due to the relative newness of this species, we currently do not an established control or eradication plan in place. Hence, prevention measures become even more important! The best suggestion is to inspect any beech trees purchased from a nursery for insects and the distorted leaves. As always, burn firewood where you buy it, and avoid bringing unused firewood home.
For more information:
Carta, L.K. et.al. 2020. Beech leaf disease symptoms caused by newly recognized nematode subspecies Litylenchus crenatae mccannii (Anguinata) described from Fagus grandifolia in North America. Forest Pathology. 50e: e12580 Date Accessed: January 22, 2021. https://www.fs.fed.us/nrs/pubs/jrnl/2020/nrs_2020_carta_001.pdf
DNR. 2021. Beech Leaf Disease. Date Accessed: January 25, 2021.
Invasive Species Centre. Beech Leaf Disease. Date Accessed: January 22, 2021.
Popkin, G. 2019. A mysterious disease is striking American beech trees. Date Accessed: January 25, 2021. Link: https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2019/11/mysterious-disease-striking-american-beech-trees
If you follow us on social media, you may have noticed that we have been posting a lot about spotted lantern fly (Lycorma delicatula) of late. This is because officials have reported a few cases of this insect being found outside Pennsylvania (where it first arrived in 2014), and this bad news for fruit, beer and wine lovers!
Originally from Asia , this insect was first discovered in 2014 in Pennsylvania. Since then, it has spread to other regions of the country. Adults have a black head, greyish-brown wings with black spots, and when open, reveal a crimson colored set of hind wings. Juvenile insects (called instars) start out black and transition to red, before molting to the adult form. The picture below shows the spotted lanternfly throughout its life cycle. Adults will lay eggs on a preferred host tree species, tree of heaven, that has also been brought to the United States.
Adults will hop from plant to another, and can spread quickly and far by laying eggs on stationary objects such as cars, pallets or boxes. Adults can also hitch a ride on shipped containers and packages. These insects will suck sap out of the plant, thus weakening it over time as they need lots of the sap. Also concerning is the copious amounts of sugary "honey dew" they excrete, which attracts other insects and mold and further exacerbates the tree. As mentioned above, tree of heaven is its preferred host (and is also considered an invasive species), but it will also feed on hardwood trees, fruit trees, grapes and hops...making it especially worrisome for our farmers!
If you have any questions or would like to pass on a sighting, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org!
With the fall holiday season approaching, many decorating enthusiasts will look to the outdoors for materials and inspiration. One plant that many use as wreaths and decorative pieces is Oriental bittersweet. While it is a pretty plant, you can inadvertently cause an infestation at your property if you use real berries and twigs.
After Halloween decorations get taken down, fall and Christmas decorations will soon dot doors, fences and tables in homes across the country. The advantage of using branches and twigs off of some trees is that they wont' necessarily harm the plant, or they are on the ground anyway, and can be easily carried home. These natural themed decorative pieces can be composted when not needed anymore. Another added bonus is that you can find these materials for free if you or friends have wooded areas on your property. One such species that Martha Stewart and other famous lifestyle influencers promote and create "do it yourself" videos on is Oriental bittersweet.
Oriental bittersweet is a woody vine that originates from Asia, but was introduced as an ornamental plant in the the late 1800s. It can spread both laterally and vertically, and can be found pretty much anywhere. It can spread via wind, water, people (through a variety of activities) and animals like birds. Research has found that seeds are viable after passing through the gut and its eventual gut release. Larger seeds will likely be released earlier than smaller seeds, thus, smaller seeds likely remaining in the gut longer but dispersed further away (Fukui, 2003). Like most invasive species, bittersweet will sprout leaves earlier than native species, blocking sunlight from reaching plants under it. As it climbs up the tree, the vine gradually encircles the tree and cuts into the outer layer of the bark, eventually cutting off the flow of nutrients and water (called "girdling"). In winter, if the tree has a lot of bittersweet growing on it, the added weight of snow can result in tree damage.
So this fall and winter, consider using locally sourced native species for decoration, especially materials that are already on the ground! However, avoid taking all of the berries and brush as this is key habitat and food for your bird and animal friends.
For more information:
MDNR. 2012. Invasive Species Best Control Practices: Oriental bittersweet. Date Accessed: October 16, 2020.
Fukui, A. 2003. Relationship between seed retention time in bird’s gut and fruit characteristics. Ornithol. Sci. 2: 41-48. Date Accessed: October 16, 2020
For many, September and October signals the start of various hunting seasons! Many are gearing up for hunting waterfowl, deer, rabbits, hares, squirrels etc. While in the field, we ask you to consider implementing some of the best practices listed below into your hunting protocol, and keep any eye out for new infestations, especially areas that you are very familiar with.
Invasive species can negatively impact your hunting or fishing experience, both directly and indirectly. Hunting involves interacting with terrestrial or aquatic environments, sometimes both during the same outing, and invasive species can make navigating those areas difficult (even un-manageable). Woody shrubs and vines can create dense thickets that prevent people with equipment from passing through. Multi-flora rose and Japanese barberry also have the added bonus of small thorns that can snag on clothing/gear (resulting in rips) and scratch exposed skin. If you paddle or boat out to your hunting site, or your hiding spot within the cattails, aquatic plant infestations can clog motors or tire out your arms if you must paddle through them. European frogbit is one such aquatic plant that when left unchecked, can result in such infestations. New infestations of frogbit are popping up across Michigan, and waterfowl hunters might be the cause of some of these infestations due to contaminated waders, gear, boats and dogs.
Not only do invasive species negatively impact your hunting experience, it impacts your target species. Deer and birds generally prefer eating native plants as they are more palatable and nutritious, and turkeys cannot easily move through thickets of Japanese barberry. Deer have also been observed to avoid garlic mustard, Japanese stiltgrass and Japanese barberry as food sources (Averill et.al., 2016). If deer over browse native species, it makes it easier for invasive species to take over (they generally pop up earlier than native species) as they crowd out native species, eventually resulting in less deer visiting. Thickets of barberry can also host more ticks than those of native species! Oriental bittersweet is a vine that can girdle (and eventually kill) trees, and crowd out native species. Dense stands of phragmites can discourage waterfowl from nesting in that region, and prevent deer and other fur bearing mammals from penetrating those stands, and change salt marsh* species composition (FWS, 2007).
Now that we know why invasive species are problematic, what can you do to prevent their spread?
1. Check waders, clothing, boots, gear and dogs for burrs, seeds and plant matter before moving to another site (and when leaving a site)
2. Drain water from boats, kayaks, canoes and decoys (including live wells in boats)
3. Clean water crafts (cloth or spray) and remove plant materials
4. Check anchor lines and trailers for invasive species
5. Do not use invasive species such as phragmites and cattails for camouflage for yourself or a blind
6. Use elliptical, bulb shaped or strap anchors as decoys
7. Burn firewood were you buy it
8. When bringing in harvested deer, ensure you are not dragging brush in as well
Buy following these suggestions, you can do your part in preventing the spread of invasive species to new areas. In addition to protecting wildlands and lakes, you will also be preventing undesired species from showing up at your house, cottage or hunting lodge!
To learn which species you should be on the look out for, how to identify them, or report invasive species, please visit the following link: https://www.misin.msu.edu/ You can download this app on to your phone, or use on the computer.
For current Michigan DNR hunting and fishing guides/digests, please click this link: www.michigan.gov/dnr/0,4570,7-350-79136_79772_80260---,00.html
* Michigan does have a few salt marshes, see Albert (2001) below
For more information:
Albert, D.A. 2001. Natural community abstract for Inland salt marsh. Michigan Natural Features Inventory, Lansing, MI. 4 pp. Date Accessed: September 2020
Averill, K.M. et. al. 2016. Deer feeding selectivity for invasive plants. Biological Invasions. 18: 1247-1263. Date Accessed: September 18, 2020.
FWS. 2007. Phragmites: Questions and Answers. 11/07. Date Accessed: September 25, 2020.
For the past three years, a new aquatic invasive species has been making waves in Michigan. Many of you have had this species as a classroom pet, eaten it at a buffet or perhaps used it as bait for fishing. If you guessed red swamp crayfish, you guessed right!
When I mention red swamp crayfish (Procambarus clarkii), many friends and colleagues from the south chuckle and say that it is a good problem to have as they are tasty! However chuckles aside, this species poses some serious problems. Red swamp crayfish's native habitat occurs in Northern Mexico, Gulf Coast States and Mississippi River watershed. They prefer slow moving freshwater such as retention ponds, small lakes and golf ponds, and utilize burrows on land. They are generally 2-5 inches in length, but some larger ones have been found (a 7 inch long one was found in Michigan in 2017) with a triangular rostrum. Body color is hard to use an identifier as their color can range from dark red, black or brown, however,they do have bright red dots unlike native crayfish found in Michigan (see picture below). Their diet consists of vegetation, snails, fish and amphibians.
They are problematic as they are very aggressive towards native crayfish (and each other), and will out-compete them for food and habitat. Their burrows can be to 3 feet deep, and can be identified by the chimneys nearby (large mounds of sand and soil by the hole). They create many burrows which will eventually result in bank destabilization and erosion. They have also been associated with cyanobacteria blooms and eutrophication.
It is thought that they were introduced via people releasing the contents of their aquariums into ponds or rivers, classroom pet releases, escapees from outdoor seafood boils, and bait dumping. The state of Michigan banned the possession of live red swamp crayfish in 2013, and in July of 2018, DNR worked with the Canadian Border Patrol to seize 2000 pounds of live crayfish at the border! If you are interested in cooking with them, I have found pre-cooked red swamp crayfish in the frozen seafood section of our local grocery store. While red swamp crayfish really is a rather tasty problem, it is important to prevent this species from becoming established in the wild! If you see any crayfish that looks like the red swamp crayfish, please contact me at email@example.com or give me a call at (517) 395 - 2089. You can also report sightings at https://www.misin.msu.edu/report . If you can safely take a picture that clearly shows the claws and its back, that would be very helpful for identification purposes.
For more information:
DNR. 2020. Red swamp crayfish. https://www.michigan.gov/invasives/0,5664,7-324-68002_74188-367863--,00.html, Date Accessed: August 20, 2020
Smith, K. et al. 2018. Assessment of invasion risks for red swamp crayfish (Procambarus clarkii) in Michigan. Management of Biological Invasions. https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Seth_Herbst/publication/326271116_Assessment_of_invasion_risks_for_red_swamp_crayfish_Procambarus_Clarkii_in_Michigan_USA/links/5b435d3daca2728a0d6627e3/Assessment-of-invasion-risks-for-red-swamp-crayfish-Procambarus-Clarkii-in-Michigan-USA.pdf
Have you ever walked by a garden and wondered what that pretty plant was? For the next few posts, I will identify some native plants that I have come across during my walks, and ones you might consider planting in your garden, or to replace invasive species you have removed from other parts of your property. Today we will focus on "Bee Balm".
Bee balm (Monarda sp.) is native to North America and is usually found in wooded areas, but is becoming a staple in people's gardens! These plants can reach up to five feet tall and come in a variety of flower colors such as purple, red, pink etc. As a perennial plant, they are easy to manage since they will come back every year. Be sure to plant in well draining soils and areas that receive either full or partial sun.
Traditionally, Native Americans (Ojibwa, Menominee ...) have used this plant for health benefits. Poultices were created and applied to wounds and skin infections due to its antiseptic characteristics, and tea was used to treat stomach, dental and gastric issues such as excessive gas! Bee balm also attracts pollinator species such as birds, butterflies and bees, and is beneficial for those of you with vegetable gardens.
Have you ever walked by a garden and wondered what that pretty plant was? For the next few posts, I will identify some native plants that I have come across during my walks, and ones you might consider planting in your garden, or to replace invasive species you have removed from other parts of your property. Today we will focus on "Eastern prickly pear".
Have you ever walked by a garden and wondered what that pretty plant was? That is me on every walk! For the next few posts, I will identify some native plants that I have come across during my walks, and ones you might consider planting in your garden, or to replace invasive species you have removed from other parts of your property. Besides, it is never too late to start planning your garden for next year! Today we will focus on "butterfly weed".
Butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa L.) belongs to the milkweed family and is a perennial plant. With the exception of seven northwest states, it is found all over the United States and in the provinces of Ontario and Quebec. It differs from other milkweed plants in that it lacks the milky sap that is typically associated with milkweed when the stem is snapped, instead, it is watery and translucent. Generally flowers are amber in color (yellow flowers can also be found and may be the dominant colour west of the 100th meridian) with blooms appearing in May through September. You would want to plant seeds in area that receives sun and has sandy soils that drain well. If your region experiences drought, this would be a great addition to your garden. Transplanting this species is difficult due to its long tap root, so consider harvesting or buying seeds. Seeds will need to be cold stratified (exposed to cold temperatures) for at least 30 days, which can be done naturally by planting seeds in the fall, or by wrapping them in a moist paper towel and placing them in your fridge.
In addition to being a beautiful plant, it is beneficial for pollinator species. While not the preferred plant for Monarch butterflies, they can be a successful host for species like Monarch and Queen butterflies! You may be able to tempt a hummingbird to visit your garden as well!
Some of you may be seeing some pretty flowers pop up around your neighborhood and along the highway! Those pretty flowers could be dame's rocket! Dame's rocket is an invasive species that flowers during the months of May, June and July but are easily confused with a native flower called phlox. One main difference is that dame's rocket flowers have four petals while phlox has five. One technique to remember is that phlox sounds like the beginning of the word five (might be a bit of a stretch, but that's what helped me!). They are problematic as they can crowd out native species in a short amount of time due to the abundance of seeds produced by each plant. Small infestations can be pulled by hand, and it will be easier to pull them out when the ground is moist. Please click here for more information about this species.
Shikha Singh is the coordinator for the JLW CISMA. She has a BSc. in Biology from University of Western Ontario, and her master's and PhD at Michigan State University from the Dept. of Fisheries and Wildlife. Her areas of expertise include water quality, water policy, invasive species, education/outreach and public speaking.