Invasive plants and pests that harm the natural environment might be the last thing on your mind, but as the weather gets nicer and people start to camp, fish and enjoy other outdoor activities, it's important to understand how spreading non-native species can affect everyone.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture designates April as Invasive Plant, Pest and Disease Awareness Month, and the Maryland Department of Agriculture recently released a set of recommendations for residents and farmers that may interact with invasive species, just in time for Earth Day. When exotic pests or plants are introduced to a local ecosystem, it's nearly impossible to completely remove them because of the lack of natural predators. That also means invasive plants and insects can spread rapidly, disrupting natural habitats and damaging commercial crops. To the average person who doesn't work in agriculture, that might not seem like a big deal, but the cost can be very real. Examples of this can be seen in Carroll.
Recently, the Carroll County Department of Recreation and Parks requested more than $50,000 in taxpayer funds for a maintenance specialist to help remove the exotic invasive plant hydrilla verticillata, which has affected boating and fishing at Piney Run Lake. Rec and Parks Administrator Jeff Degitz said the plant grows quickly and must be mowed regularly in the lake. It is difficult, if not impossible, to get rid of the plant now that it is filmy entrenched in the lake.
And for the past several years, farmers in the county have been dealing with the brown marmorated stink bugs damaging crops. Farmers must purchase insecticide to try to keep the stink bugs, which are originally from Asia, away from their crops, which cuts into their bottom line. To try to recoup that money, it often means a cost increase passed on to consumers.
The MDA's recommendations call on all residents to determine where invasive species exist in order to avoid them, and ensure that they remove any invasive plant parts or seeds that may be stuck on equipment, boots, gear, truck bed, tires, animals and harvesting equipment before leaving an infested area to make sure they are not spreading seeds, insects or spores to a new location. Gardeners can buy local plants and make sure they avoid using invasive plants, according to MDA's recommendations. People concerned their garden will lose its luster after removing invasives should talk to a local nursery about suitable replacements.
Report invasive plant or pest sightings to your county extension agent or local APHIS office by clicking on the "Report a pest or disease" link at http://www.aphis.usda.gov. The sooner invasive species are detected, the easier and cheaper it is to control them.