It’s an invasion! A swirl of conflicting information ratched up the anxiety during the early days of the COVID pandemic. And then came news reports of “Murder Hornets.” A story published in May 20202 noted that, “Each one of the hornets can kill a bee every 14 seconds because one of their main ways to make this happen is just to decapitate the bees.”
But murder hornets are not the only worrisome invaders, or home grown species. The southwest United States is home to a diverse range of insect species. But there is a growing threat of invasive insect species that can harm the environment, agriculture, and or pose a risk to people.
Invasive insect species are classified as those that are not native to a region. As a result they have negative impacts on the ecosystems they invade. As a result they can outcompete, prey on, or transmit diseases to native species, reduce biodiversity, and damage crops. And in some instances, such as with Africanized bees, present serious risks to public health.
Some of the most destructive invasive insect species in the southwest United States are:
- Fire ants (Solenopsis invicta): These aggressive ants are native to South America and were introduced to the United States in 1918 through a cargo ship in Mobile, Alabama. They have since spread to many southern states, including Arizona, California, New Mexico, and Texas. Fire ants form large colonies that can reach up to several million individuals. They can sting humans and animals, causing painful welts and allergic reactions. They also damage crops, electrical equipment, and wildlife habitats.
- Formosan termites (Coptotermes formosanus): These termites are native to China and were first noticed in the continental United States in the 1960s. They have established themselves in several southern states, including California and Texas. Formosan termites are notorious for their massive colonies and destructive appetite. They can consume wood at a rapid rate, causing structural damage to buildings, bridges, trees, and other wooden objects. They can also create mud tubes that allow them to access moisture and avoid predators.
- Asian citrus psyllid (Diaphorina citri): This psyllid is native to Asia and was first detected in the United States in 1998 in Florida. It has since spread to several states, including Arizona, California, and Texas. Asian citrus psyllid feeds on citrus plants and transmits a bacterial disease called Huanglongbing (HLB) or citrus greening. This disease causes yellowing of leaves, stunted growth, bitter fruit, and eventually death of the citrus tree. There is no cure for HLB and infected trees must be removed and destroyed.
Proactive Instead of Reactive
These are just some examples of invasive insect species that pose a threat to the southwest United States. There are many more species that have been introduced or could potentially be introduced to this region. To prevent or reduce the impacts of an invasion of insect species, it is important to:
- Learn how to identify invasive insect species and report any sightings to local authorities.
- Avoid transporting or releasing any plants or animals that could harbor invasive insect species.
- Follow quarantine regulations and inspect any items that could carry invasive insect species when traveling across state or international borders.
- Support research and management efforts to control or eradicate invasive insect species.
Invasive insect species are a serious problem that requires collective action from all stakeholders. By being aware and responsible, we can help protect the southwest United States from these unwanted invaders.
As scary as some of these critters, and native desert dwellers such as scorpions, can be there is no need to panic. Baron Servicces in Bullhead City, Arizona is one of the oldest pest control companies in the Colorado River Valley. And we are just a phone call away, even if you are experiencing an invasion of unwanted visitors.
Written by Jim Hinckley of Jim HInckley’s America