It’s Invasive Species Awareness Month!

Familiarize yourself with invasive Garlic Mustard, pictured here,  so you can pull it when you see it (flickr). 

Julia Poska| May 10, 2019

Invasive species often travel across continents via human transportation vessels and the cargo they carry. These species often have no natural predators in their new homes, so their populations explode. The native species that the invaders in turn prey upon are not adapted to defend themselves against these new predators, giving the invasive species an advantage over the native predators that now must share their prey.  The result is a devastating chain reaction that can ripple through entire ecosystems.

Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds declared May Invasive Species Awareness Month to encourage the public and private sectors to join forces and amp up the fight against ecosystem invaders. Invasive species in Iowa harm agriculture and seriously degrade state parks, which are a source of tourism revenue.

One of Iowa’s most problematic invasive pests is the Emerald Ash Borer, a beetle from east Asia that has killed millions of ash trees across the country in the last 17 years. Another common offender is Garlic Mustard, a tasty herb which is spreading rapidly through Iowan woodlands and crowding out native plant species. A full guide to problematic invasive plant species found in Iowa’s woodlands can be found here.

Gardeners will be familiar with many invasive bugs and weeds, like the Japanese Beetle, the Brown Marmorated Stink Bug and bull thistles. These pests and others can pose real threats to Iowa farmers, and many are tracked by the Iowa State Ag Extension Office.

How can you help?

  • Do not buy or sell firewood from outside your county. Firewood can contain and spread invasive insects like the Emerald Ash Borer.
  • Scrub shoes and clean clothes before and after trips outdoors to avoid spreading seeds, especially when visiting public lands.
  • Remove invasive plants where you recognize them. Some groups and parks host volunteer days to pull invasive species.

Anti-fish electric barrier successful during summer floods

Julia Poska | August 23, 2018

Asian carp, found in the Iowa Great Lakes in 2011, are one of the most notorious invasive freshwater species in the Midwest (flickr).

An electric barrier between Dickinson County’s Milford Creek and the Iowa Great Lakes proved its worth this summer, protecting the lakes from invasive fish during the region’s second highest flood on record.

Invasive carp species were first found in the Great Lakes in 2011. Flooding accelerates their entry via streams by allowing them to swim upstream and over dams. Such species can disrupt food chains, ecological processes and even recreation (see invasive Asian carp body slamming boaters here).

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources installed the $1 million barrier in 2012. During floods, it ramps up its electric field to prevent fish from passing through. Floods in late June and early July were the highest since 1933.

Scientists have since found invasive fish in Milford Creek but say the barrier seems to have fenced in most, if not all of them. DNR fisheries biologist Mike Hawkins told Iowa Public Radio that if any individuals made it in, they should not be able to reproduce in the lake.

Read the full story on Iowa Public Radio.

DNR uses goats to control vegetation

Photo by bagsgroove; Flickr
Photo by bagsgroove; Flickr

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources is utilizing a herd of 64 goats to reduce unwanted vegetation on the banks of an Iowa stream.

Ensign Hollow Wildlife Management Area and trout stream in Clayton County – See more at:

Ensign Hollow Wildlife Management Area in Clayton County, Iowa is a popular site for trout fishing, bird watching, and fly anglers. However, dense vegetation along the banks of Hewett Creek is discouraging recreational use.

The goats, which are being contracted out from Twin Pine Farms in Delhi, are well equipped to eat invasive and thorny plants. Additionally, their small hooves will do little to no damage to stream banks. Goats are also much more efficient and environmentally friendly than mowing and pesticides.

Two miniature donkeys will join the herd for protection against predators.

The goats will remain in place until September, at which time the DNR will reevaluate their use.

Emerald ash borer expected to begin infesting central Iowa

Photo via U.S. Department of Agriculture; Flickr
Photo via U.S. Department of Agriculture; Flickr
Nick Fetty | May 27, 2014

The pesky and invasive emerald ash borer is moving west across the state and could become problematic for parts of central Iowa, according to a recent article in the Des Moines Register.

The infestation of this Asian beetle began in Michigan in 2002 and has now migrated as far west as Newton, Iowa which is about 30 miles east of Des Moines. The emerald ash borer was first sighted in Iowa in 2010 and has since spread to at least nine Iowa counties including Allamakee, Black Hawk, Bremer, Cedar, Des Moines, Jasper, Jefferson, Union, and Wapello. State and federal officials worked together to draft a readiness plan and as of February 2014 the entire state was placed under quarantine to prevent further infestation into neighbouring states. The bug – which fully grown measures about one inch in length – “poses a 100 percent threat of death to ash trees if not properly confronted. “

An informational meeting to discuss ways in which to combat this invasive species will take place at the Ankeny fire department headquarters (120 N.W. Ash Drive) in Ankeny at 5:30 p.m. tonight.

More information about the emerald ash borer is also available through the Iowa Department of Natural Resources as well as Iowa State University.

Iowa Army National Guard recruits clean up state park

Photo by The National Guard, Flickr.
Photo by The National Guard, Flickr.

Polk City’s Big Creek State Park will receive some help from Iowa Army National Guard recruits.

On April 28th, more than 100 recruits will help pick up trash and debris around Big Creek.

Last year, 120 recruits pulled invasive species around Big Creek and resurfaced a trail at Ledges State Park.

Read more here.

On the Radio: University of Iowa uses local pine trees as biofuel


Listen to this week’s radio segment here or read the transcript below. This week’s segment discusses renewable energy at the University of Iowa.

The University of Iowa and Johnson County are teaming up to increase renewable energy production on campus.

This is the Iowa Environmental Focus.

Continue reading

UI uses dying Johnson County trees as biofuel

Garlic mustard is one of the invasive plants affecting the Johnson County trees. Photo by eLeSeA, Flickr.
Garlic mustard is one of the invasive plants affecting the Johnson County trees. Photo by eLeSeA, Flickr.

The University of Iowa will use 24 acres of dead and dying trees in Johnson County as biofuel.

The trees are dying because of invasive species like garlic mustard, exotic honeysuckles and Canada thistles.

Once the trees are removed and the invasive plants are cleared, the land will be converted into a prairie.

Read more from The Gazette here.

Volunteers help get rid of invasive trees in Iowa City prairie

Photo by BugDNA,Flickr.

A rarely recognized victim of the 2008 floods is the Waterworks Prairie Park in Iowa City.

The floodwaters carried the seeds of willow and cottonwood trees to the prairie. With these trees around, it’s impossible to do the burning or mowing necessary to maintain the prairie.

Volunteers – including many University of Iowa students – helped the City of Iowa City clear out many of the invasive trees this past Sunday.

Read more here.

On the Radio: Prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species

Zebra mussels attached to a boat. Photo by pixelsrzen.

Listen to this week’s radio segment here or read the transcript below. This week’s episode advises Iowans to help stop the spread of aquatic invasive species.

Summertime means an increase in water recreation, but don’t let it also mean an increase in Iowa’s aquatic invasive species.

This is the Iowa Environmental Focus.

Continue reading

Asian silver carp may spread to Iowa Great Lakes

Photo by michiganseagrant, Flickr.

The Asian silver carp continue to present issues for Iowa’s waterways. These fish entered a tributary of the Missouri River last year when floods allowed them to swim over the top of dams.

The carp could soon spread to the Iowa Great Lakes.

One major issue with the carp is that they leap out of the water and are capable of damaging vehicles and harming people that they make contact with.

Many Iowans feel that an electric barrier is necessary to keep the fish from spreading, but the Legislature has denied requests for funding so far.

Read more about the carp, and watch a video clip of the leaping fish, at the Des Moines Register’s website here.