Several exotic insect species have managed to establish thriving populations within regions where they are not native. “Invasive” insects are exotic insects that cause ecological harm and/or pose a public health threat within non-native regions. Red and black imported fire ants, Argentine ants, brown marmorated stink bugs, Formosan subterranean termites and gypsy moths are just a few non-native insect species that have established invasive habitats within the United States. Most insect species fail to establish thriving populations in non-native environments, and die off as a result. This is not surprising, as insect survival is highly dependent on environmental conditions.
Exotic insects are usually unable to locate necessary food sources in regions where they are not native, as plant and animal food sources differ tremendously from one global region to another. Also, exotic insects cannot adequately navigate foreign landscapes in order to locate food sources. There are many other reasons as to why exotic insects are unlikely to survive in non-native environments, but in rare cases, non-native insects can thrive more easily in foreign environments than they can in their native environments, as an insect species’ natural predators may not exist in non-native regions, allowing invasive insects to proliferate to unmanageable proportions. Many non-native insect species that have established an invasive habitat within the US initially arrived in the country at the Port of New Orleans, and most people would be surprised at how many non-native insect pests port officials encounter each day.
US customs and border protection officials are tasked with inspecting overseas shipping containers for non-native insect pests. These officials have extensive knowledge of biological science, and they are trained to identify non-native insect species that could establish an invasive habitat in the US. The Formosan subterranean termite, which has caused much destruction in New Orleans and elsewhere in the southeast US, arrived in the US within military shipping containers immediately after World War II, and now these pests inflict 1 billion dollars in damage to homes and buildings each year in the country.
A few weeks ago, Louisiana port officials found gypsy moths within shipments from Panama. The gypsy moths probably entered the vessel when it docked at Kobe, Japan where these pests are native. Gypsy moth larvae have inflicted serious damage to rural and urban tree species in western and northeastern states for decades. Gypsy moth control programs and eradication efforts are costly, as millions of dollars have been spent on containment efforts during gypsy moth outbreaks. Gypsy moth caterpillars also pose a public health threat due to the venomous spines that protrude from the insect’s body. These spines sometimes make contact with human skin simply by floating in the air, and the caterpillars are abundant in residential yards. Officials also recently found a Madagascar hissing cockroach being transported by an individual on a cruise liner that docked in Louisiana. Other non-native insect species that are commonly encountered at the Port of New Orleans include Khapra beetles, red palm mites and various ant species.
Do you think that another non-native termite species will establish an invasive habitat in the US?
Tags: non-native pest species, pest control